Breaking the news

How news organisation should tackle the digital transformation.

The digital transformation is breaking the news.

Traditionally, news have resided in either newspapers or on television.

However, the news media landscape of tomorrow will have little to do with newspapers or broadcast networks. These types of news organisations are quickly turning into dusty relics of our collective non-digital past.

The problem is that one cannot just take any of these two types of organisations and simply migrate them into a digital environment. It’s just not that easy. No matter the chosen route, the news of tomorrow must evolve into formats that are already dictated by the new media logic.

Today, we know that news sites work and we know that streaming services work, but unfortunately for many traditional news corporations, these two types of media platforms don’t work in tandem.

This is why traditional news corporations must break in order to transition into digital.

Starting point: The newspaper challenge

Most news sites aren’t really news sites; they’re newspapers with websites. Producing multimedia news for a digital context takes years to figure out — especially if the parallel transition to digital revenue streams is slow and laden with trial-and-error. Also, a news site cannot be successful on its own; it must coexist in symbiosis with search engines and social media platforms. Quality is always a factor in reporting the news, but the transitioning newspaper must build for speed and volume as well.

Starting point: The broadcast network challenge

Broadcast networks generally have two separate value propositions: On the one hand, they produce high-quality news shows and on the other hand, they provide episodic entertainment. If the broadcast network migrates its content into a streaming network, its news content won’t survive. If they move into the news site model, their episodic entertainment won’t survive. Since both models require a lot of effort to work, splitting the broadcast network into two separate entities might dilute the resources needed for the transformation.

Possible destination: The news site challenge

The most straightforward transformation is the newspaper transition into a news site. But this transition isn’t without serious challenges. The newspaper must build a user-friendly site with best-in-class conversion design. They must add the capability of producing video news stories and produce quality news shows. Also, they must transition their ad-based print model into a loyalty-based online subscription servicewithout locking away the actual news behind paywalls.

Possible destination: The streaming network challenge

Streaming networks have the most straightforward success strategy in the new landscape. Provide the highest quality episodic entertainment to paying subscribers. To stand out and accelerate growth, produce original content to attract and maintain audiences. The main challenge here is that this is an incredibly expensive game to play with fierce competitors like Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime. Some news shows, like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, can survive as a streaming format, but these are likely to be few and far apart.

What about the in-between formats, then?

Morning shows, daytime television, and late-night shows have always had a journalistic element to them, but they traditionally qualify as entertainment. However, they are more geared towards current affairs than they are toward high-quality drama or more documentary styles of storytelling. As these types of shows does well with more casual consumption and as clips doing rounds in social media, I think that we’ll find these types of formats slowly move away from both broadcast- and streaming networks and migrate towards news sites.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.


news | Market-Driven Journalism | Doctor Spin
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Communication Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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