Can You Answer These Four Questions About Your Content?

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I watched my first live news discussion this week on Instagram—it was excellent—and then found out that I was a bit behind the times. "Another big change in the last few years has been the growth of Instagram which popularized visual formats like 'stories' and short videos via IGTV," says the publisher-insightful Reuters Digital News Report, just out last week.
"Instagram now reaches more than a third of all people (36%) weekly and two-thirds of under-25s (64%). Instagram reaches 11% across age groups, almost as many as use Twitter for news."
Fortunately for my ego, the report does still verify one thing: "Overall, the most important factor for those who subscribe is the distinctiveness and quality of the content. Subscribers believe they are getting better information."
The Reuters report is 112 pages but we have distilled it here to four key questions:
1. Are you emailing enough?
The Reuters report verifies email's acceptance. The email daily update accounts for 60% of all news emails and it is generally well-received by both news lovers as well as daily briefers. The reasons that this is such a popular product are: simplicity, finish-ability, curation and serendipity. Globally, close to half (44%) of all respondents say they do read most of their news emails.
I get the first three reasons. Simplicity has become a much-valued commodity today. Finish-ability is huge; so much of what we receive looks too daunting. Good curation—which requires knowing your audience well—separates the best content producers. But serendipity? That's a tough one.
"In the United States one in five (21%) access a news email weekly, and for almost half of these it is their primary way of accessing news. Publishers have been extending the range of formats, increasingly offering 'pop up emails' on subjects like coronavirus and the 2020 presidential elections. Emails have proved effective in attracting potential new subscribers, as well as encouraging existing users to come back more frequently."
2. Are you doing enough video, especially if you have international aspirations?
While 67% of those polled by Reuters say they access online news video on a weekly basis, in some countries that number goes as high as 95%. So especially if you have a global audience, you should be increasing your video output.
And, of course, it's important to get that output on a variety of platforms. "Across countries, over half (52%) access video news via a third-party platform each week, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, with a third (33%) accessing via news websites and apps."
"The popularity of social networks and video platforms in Asia, Latin, America, and Africa seems to be stimulating video consumption at the expense of text—even if most people consume a mix of the two. Even in Europe a number of publishers have stepped up investment in video formats."
3. Have you embraced the new platforms and technologies?
The consensus is in that as much as we all make a little light of our Brady Bunch Zoom chats and other virtual technology, they will be a part of our professional lives post-COVID. So we need to get good cameras, fix the lighting, put on headphones, check our wifi; you get the picture.
"New digital behaviors have emerged in this crisis that are likely to have long-term implications," the report says. "Many have joined Facebook or WhatsApp groups for the first time and have engaged in local groups. Young people have consumed more news through services like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Video conferencing has emerged as a new platform for personal communication but has also changed the face of [organization outreach]. The media have embraced these new technologies in terms of remote working, but also in terms of the production and distribution of content."
4. Do you have a podcast and if so, how are you marketing it?
From the report: "The underlying [podcast] picture remains one of growth. Our data show an overall rise in podcast listening to 31% (+3) across a basket of 20 countries [including] the U.S. (36%). About half of podcast users listen to a news podcast in the U.S., where the market has developed furthest." The format gives greater depth and understanding of complex issues (59%) and a wider range of perspectives (57%) than other types of media.
"I feel like synergy in an organization is overlooked a lot when it comes to podcasts," Blake Althen of podcast-producing company Human Factor told me last year. "At least with the groups I've done work for, the magazine/newsletter department might be doing their thing, the email people might be doing their thing and the events people are doing their thing, but there's not a lot of synergy."
Podcasts can be five minutes or 50 minutes and in a variety of formats, so they're relatively easy to start, and people are listening more, even on weekends.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…