Web 3.0 is ushering in a second digital age — one that news media companies need to prepare for now.
Juan Señor, president of the U.K.-based Innovation Media consulting, told INMA members they should expect a new experience, one that is “completely different from what we’ve seen before.”
During the INMA South Asia News Media Summit this week, sponsored by the Google News Initiative, Stibo DX, and the Indian Newspaper Society, Señor predicted this post-pandemic transformation will spell the death of Web sites as we know them today. Instead, he said a browser-free Internet is the way of the future, which means publishers will need to start rethinking how they present content.
“This pandemic has opened up a world of creativity, a world of decisiveness, and a desire to indeed get going and embrace the digital revolution,” he said.
Drawing from the latest Innovation on Media 2022/23 World Report, published annually by the global media consultancy, Señor discussed some of the topics media companies should look at to remain competitive, sharing how media publishing has changed in the past two years and what to expect moving forward.
“Overall, really we are seeing a whole bunch of breathless innovation. It’s very, very interesting,” he said. “Everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon of introducing a lot of these new technologies, practices, business models, and so on at a time when everybody’s just emerging from a pandemic. … Now everybody’s out there trying to embrace as much as possible.”
With so many things changing rapidly, it is “very important that you choose the right innovations to focus on,” Señor said. The end of third-party cookies must be addressed. And although Google has extended the deadline for eliminating them, it’s imperative that publishers “get your head around” building relationships with readers in a post-cookie world.
“This is huge because if you have a direct relationship with your audience, you can have the data, you can control what you offer, what you charge, and control what’s next in terms of your relationship with them,” he said.
This is also the time to look at subscriptions to improve reader revenue, Señor said, calling it “a golden age for subscriptions.” Focusing on retention and light readers should be part of a digital strategy. And while it won’t happen overnight, publishers can create a successful digital model based on subscriptions.
Newsletters are also key to the future. During the pandemic, they became publishers’ most valuable tool, Señor said: “It's been a conversion monster. E-mails are still the best thing on the Internet, and newsletters are the most welcome of e-mails.” Open rates are high, he said, leading to newsletters becoming a business model in themselves.
Another channel that should be explored is audio, although it now goes beyond podcasts. While podcasts opened the door to audio journalism for many news media companies (and their audiences), they also gave birth to the audio story boom. More consumers want to hear — rather than read — their stories, and technology provides the tools to allow companies to meet that demand affordably.
“The text-to-voice technology has indeed already matured, so you can have all kinds of voices,” Señor said. “And it’s something that is beloved by many subscribers. So we must be offering audio content as it indeed very much in demand.”
As formats change, publishers must master new ways to tell stories, and right now that means embracing visual digital storytelling. uring COVID-19, data visualisations became the most compelling way to tell the story of what was happening as the pandemic unfolded.
“They became major drivers of subscriptions,” he said. “And now we’ve seen incredible mixing of audio and cartoon graphics, empowering storytelling as we’ve never seen before.”
Such digital visual storytelling will be needed to prepare for Web 3.0, Señor said, urging publishers to start looking at how they can implement it: “We see these Web sites waning, the apps waning, and this new emergence of storytelling in a browser-free world,” he said. “A lot of this storytelling is something you must be experimenting with now and get beyond HTML to what’s to come.”
Señor urged publishers to reinvest in quality journalism. While taking advantage of all the new digital offerings, it’s imperative to use those tools to provide the best journalism possible.
“Because as you know, if you do not invest in quality journalism, you will not save this business,” Señor cautioned. “You will not progress, because only journalism will save journalism.”