Creating high-value journalism readers trust is key to reader revenue model

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Turning journalistic principles of quality and trust into core values that create loyalty and generate revenue is one of three critical areas INMA will focus on in the recently launched INMA Newsroom Initiative.

Creating high-value journalism that meets audience needs is at the center of how the modern newsroom contributes to the success of publishing models increasingly geared to reader revenue. That’s great news for journalists, but it demands ways to assess, promote, and measure quality.

At its core, the question of what constitutes quality is a shared understanding between the journalist and the reader. Trust is central to that bargain and to the commitment to subscribe or sign up as a member.

Trust is central to the business of journalism.
Trust is central to the business of journalism.

“Trust is a fundamental issue to legitimacy of journalism, brand positioning of news outlets (their differentiation), and a condition for people to pay,” says Greg Piechota, who has long headed INMA’s Readers First Initiative.

The Newsroom Initiative and its upcoming master class, which starts today, will look at ways newsrooms have embraced the concept of trust and in some cases how to measure quality — or find proxies for it.

Chris Moran, head of editorial innovation at The Guardian, led a major project built on content analysis from the proprietary Ophan database to reduce production of less valuable content and promote best practices to generate more of what readers valued. That also turned out to be better journalism that was more rewarding for the newsroom to produce.

Some of it involves the basics, he says: “Ask yourself if right now your organisation has a really clear sense of what it is covering across a week, month, or year? If not, you probably should. If you think you're publishing too much, ask yourself why. The metrics you use to judge this will shift radically according to what the problem is (promotion? production resource? quality?).”

Chris is due to speak in the second session of the March master class.

Some publishers, such as Sinead Boucher of Stuff in New Zealand, are focusing on trust as a central business as well as editorial proposition. She wants Stuff to become New Zealand’s most trusted company, not just an editorial operation. Stuff also launched a charter to set out its stall.

Sally Lehrman, chief executive officer of The Trust Project, is due to speak in the Newsroom Initiative master class and has the data points from worldwide surveys of news consumers to show how much relatively simple acts and transparency can add to trust in news.

Trust is good business.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Peter Bale

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