Sunday, August 6, 2017

Press and news media: “Give the audience what they want or what they need? There’s an even better question.”

“So how do newsrooms determine what the audience wants? They’re increasingly looking to analytics for answers. With finer and finer grain metrics, they pore over which of the newsroom’s offerings get the most clicks, shares, time on site, or whatever the metric du jour is. [emphasis added] They then do their best to repeat whatever they believe was the magic ingredient of the story’s success.”

The quote above is from this oft-cited article by Jennifer Brandel about the news media’s focus — or lack thereof — and is lengthy and quite detailed. Strongly encourage those interested in this subject to read it in its entirety. Here are excerpts:

“Two particular questions have been haunting newsrooms’ strategy conversations, causing severe moral dilemmas and destabilizing the industry. They are:

Should we give the audience what they want?


Should we give the audience what they need?

Besides introducing a false dichotomy, the big trouble with these questions is that they start from two flawed assumptions: 1. that newsrooms already know what audiences want and 2. that newsrooms can and should determine what their audience needs.”

A better question. . .

“These two simple yet deeply flawed questions about wants and needs are leading newsrooms and their journalists to stray further from their mission and purpose. Which leads to the question: what is the purpose of journalism? Answers are infinite, but the American Press Institute’s definition offers a solid starting point. It says the purpose ‘is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.’ ”

and. . . 

“By starting stories with the audience’s stated information needs, reporters then can know whether their stories are truly relevant before the metrics (or comments) roll in.