News media adapts to surge of short-form content

By Eirik Næsje


Oslo, Norway


Over the last few years, a seismic shift has occurred in the way we consume news and information.

Sparked by the advent of social media in the early 2000s, the landscape of communication underwent a monumental transformation. This was further accelerated by the global lockdowns of 2020, where the demand for instant, online news reached unprecedented heights, highlighting the growing preference for short-form content among audiences.

Amidst these changes, the challenge for media publishers has been clear: to adapt, innovate, and effectively engage with the digital generation.

Short-form content has become increasingly popular, especially with younger readers, and major publishers from around the world are adapting to the trend.
Short-form content has become increasingly popular, especially with younger readers, and major publishers from around the world are adapting to the trend.

This article delves into the journey of short-form content’s rise to prominence, its impact on news consumption habits, and how leading publishers are leveraging this trend to captivate and maintain their audience in the ever-evolving digital realm.

How the rise of short-form content came to be

In the early to mid-2000s, social media revolutionised communication, introducing unprecedented habits and expectations around news updates. The rise of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter marked a seismic shift, transforming global connectivity and pushing entire populations across generations online.

This digital transformation was not just rapid. It also naturally reshaped business strategies, compelling companies to leverage these platforms for broader audience reach.

Fast forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic introduced global lockdowns, radically altering news consumption habits. The whole pattern of news consumption changed, leading to online news consumption skyrocketing. The demand for real-time updates surged, with information ranging from safety measures to government mandates becoming critical.

During this period, digital platforms became lifelines for up-to-the-minute news, leading to a significant spike in online news engagement. However, this surge was temporary. As the world began to reopen, digital platforms faced the challenge of maintaining the heightened engagement levels.

These pivotal moments have strongly impacted the way people communicate with each other and how communication is received.

The pandemic, in particular, accelerated the shift toward digital, establishing new norms in content delivery. Audiences now expect concise, accurate updates, reflecting the broader trend towards immediacy and clarity in digital communication.

Followed by the AI (r)evolution wave in 2023, the question became: What’s next for media publishers?

How top publishers master short-form content

Navigating the bumpy road of changes in the digital news landscape — adjusting to trends and expectations, paywall versus no paywall, TikTok or Instagram — is a constant, and the domination of social media poses a unique challenge for news publishers.

One notable challenge remains captivating the attention of younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials, who predominantly consume content through social platforms.

But if there’s one lesson we have learned from the last few years, it is that readers have acquired an ingrained habit of reading short-form text, in one form or another. Consequently, this evolution presents a compelling case for media publishers to adapt and innovate, particularly through the use of short-form text strategy.

When talking to major publishers such as Sky, the BBC, or the Guardian, to name just a few, it became clear the most successful ones leverage live feeds or a live-blogging strategy to maintain high audience engagement and potentially introduce readers to in-depth articles, podcasts, or other key journalistic content.

La Presse is adopting a similar approach to grow its reader base. Having transitioned to a digital-exclusive platform, the largest French-Canadian publisher is on a mission to offer its content for free to all readers, with a simple registration requirement for readers.

Leveraging live content feeds as an audience engagement tool, the newspaper indicates this represents a pivotal method for captivating highly engaged users and supporting La Presse’s unique revenue model, which consists of monetising its readers through donations and ads, amongst other means.

“We monetise highly engaged users, not only through advertisement presentation but also because these are the people who tend to donate,” said the vice president of technology at La Presse. “They are participating in the ecosystem of the news activity and being engaged with the brand.”

Engaging Gen Z and Millennials: transforming digital publishing with audience-centric strategies

The journey from traditional print models to dynamic digital platforms underscores the need for media publishers to continually adapt and innovate.

By focusing on audience-specific content, such as what Stavanger Aftenblad did with its coverage of the local junior football Champions League, publishers can capture and maintain the attention of younger demographics, thereby securing a future audience base and fostering audience engagement and loyalty.

In conclusion, the rise of short-form content and the integration of digital technologies in content creation and distribution represent a significant opportunity for media publishers.

By embracing these changes and focusing on audience-centric strategies, news publishers can navigate the challenges of the digital age and ensure their content continues to resonate with both existing and potential subscribers.

The future of media publishing lies in its ability to adapt, innovate, and engage with its audience through relevant, timely, and compelling content offerings.

About Eirik Næsje

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