The ever-evolving news consumer

August 2, 2022

The way people consume news has been in a state of flux for years. The era of having no exposure to news throughout the day until the evening news is over - well it is for most. According to OFCOM, the internet is the most used platform for news consumption among 16-24 year olds in the UK, with TV news now being mostly watched by over 65s. In the US, half of Americans get their news from social media, with a third regularly getting their news from Facebook. As of 2022, more than two-thirds of Guardian Media Group’s total income came from online operations.

The way people consume news depends on a number of factors. A report by Flamingo commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University outlines four types of news consumer:

  1. The heritage consumers
  2. Typically time poor and have little time for news, but when they do they still use the same news brands they grew up with.
  3. The Passive News Absorber
  4. This group is not interested enough to have a regular relationship with news brands. They dedicate little to no time to actively engaging with the news. The lack of proactive use of their feeds means they are likely to fall into a dreaded echo-chamber cycle of doom.
  5. The Dedicated News Devotee
  6. These people have a routine. They access their favourite news brand through a dedicated app, if not a browser. They supplement news brands with social media, and have a number of other brands that they regularly look out for.
  7. The Proactive News Lover
  8. Tech savvy and social media aficionados, these consumers lovingly curate their feeds to satisfy their needs. They are committed to the news, and no doubt brand aware, but they assume responsibility for collating their news, rather than delegating it to a brand.

Looking at these four groups and considering the probable variants in between, it is easy to imagine just how difficult it is for news outlets to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Each of the groups above will have their own way of thinking, their own behaviour modes, and have their own set of needs and expectations. It is up to news outlets to set out their stall (or newsstand, ahem) in a way that makes it clear who they are aiming at and which features are intended for each group. It's impossible to please everyone, so picking a group and really focusing on what motivates them allows product roadmaps to remain focused - at least to start with anyway!

In recent years news brands have taken strides to better adapt to modern consumer needs, experimenting with more tailored experiences. Large re-platforming and re-factoring projects have made way for features that would have seemed unimaginable until recently. From AI solutions for automation and personalisation to object based media enabling stories to be divided up and replayed in ways that suit the reader. As confidence grows in the technological foundations of the big news outlets, the rise in innovation begins. 

We’re particularly excited about innovations that require very little technical effort. Thanks to low-code or no-code integrations, more advanced features are no longer just for those with bigger budgets. Startups and smaller news outlets are now able to experiment with new approaches. Here the New York Times introduces their audio offering using a swish apple-like website experience. But in this area we have also seen a refreshing democratisation of innovation, with products like Speechify that offer an easy to integrate API allowing articles to be read out to the user in natural-sounding voices. So now with just a few lines of code, those with additional accessibility needs, or those who simply prefer listening to articles can engage with brands that they were previously unable to.

How we consume news in 10 years time will be drastically different to today, each cycle of change as disruptive as the last. As news publishers keep pace with change they’ll need to navigate a mixture of design, content and technology to ensure their reputation remains credible and their mission continues to appeal.

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