This week the Society of Editors held its Future of News annual conference — where there was a definitive shift towards debate about how to solve the future needs of our audiences.
Kicking off the day and setting the theme throughout most of the sessions was the question of how newsrooms , from the big orthodox brands, such as the BBC, through to start-ups like the new News Movement, embrace new platforms and integrate them into their news distribution operations.
It seems most publishers have barely got to grips with the impact Instagram can bring to their brands when there is already a new kid on the Block — Tik Tok.
Since its launch in 2016 Tik Tok has essentially been seen as the preserve of the young — with around 43% of its global audience between 18 and 24-years-old. And 32% between 25 and 34. (Source: Social Shepherd, quoting Tik Tok’s press information)
And its popularity exploded during the pandemic lockdown as the app reached one billion active users, allowing it to provide entertainment to its community all around the globe.
But now it is being taken seriously for its ability to reach the holy grail of a younger audience by news brands.
While many traditional newsbrands had previously written off the younger generation as being news atheists and difficult to reach, there is a growing and rapid realisation that this generation really does care about news — just not the way they are served it at the moment.
As Kamal Ahmed (Editor-in-Chief of The News Movement) offered up as he chaired the panel session on Engaging with the Future, “There is a thirst for trusted and engaging news” And “there is an under-supply of trusted and engaging news on social channels even though that’s where most young people live.”
It is this realisation which is now forcing the news providers to think again about Tik Tok.
As Naja Nielsen, Digital Director, BBC News, and panel member said: “There is a reason why we, as an old media, have been left by the young crowd and we need to adapt.”
The question is how do we do this. It shouldn’t be by replicating the mistakes we have made with Snap Chat and even Facebook by creating news to mimic their platforms. We need to adapt our news provision to those channels while maintaining our brand values and identity.
In her opinion, and one that is generally shared, it is not about trying to get the younger generation to identify with your mature brand now, it is about getting them used to interacting with your brand on the platforms of their choice and then developing that relationship with them.
The challenge we have in attracting a younger audience is not about journalism, it is about making it accessible to them.
Nabihah Parkar, Video Producer for Vice World News, offered this advice: Be authentic and natural to the platform, by using tools such as emojis, pop ups etc; Experiment with different formats and have fun with it.
She told how she was able to tackle a serious issue such as the Ukraine War and what NATO was through a 40-second explainer from her kitchen.
“We have seen in Ukraine there is an appetite for news. We know we need journalism. We need to know what we want to be best at — and that is informing everyone about what’s really happening.”
The bottom line is that social platforms, such as Tik Tok, will be transient by their nature but they should be seen as a place of discovery for orthodox news brands to discover how to interact with a younger audience of the future.
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