Two veterans of some of the biggest newsrooms in the world have joined forces to launch The News Movement — a news service aimed at young people on the platforms they use and offering high-quality reporting in a format that works for them.
The News Movement is co-founded by William Lewis (former chief executive of Dow Jones, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, business editor of The Sunday Times, and news editor at The Financial Times), and Kamal Ahmed (former editorial director at the BBC and its former economics correspondent, among many other roles).
Housed in the Associated Press building in London and with big expansion plans in the United States, The News Movement has a head of steam already and is hiring and raising funds.
The recipe is both simple and complex: commission and produce stories written by and aimed at younger audiences — mostly 18-to-25-year-olds — on the platforms TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram so far, as well as work on its own site.
“We have a really simple mission, which is to help solve the undersupply of trusted, engaging, useful news and information on social media sites and other digital platforms,” Ahmed told me in an interview in The News Movement newsroom in London.
One of the elements that most interested me about their project is the focus on strong reporting, ethics, quality, and balance, but delivered in a way that works for those people and platforms. The founders, especially Ahmed as editor-in-chief, are trying to apply their experience in working for respected journalistic organisations with strong institutional policies.
“I’ve had a long career in traditional media. And that has been a joy for me,” Ahmed said. “I always lived in a world where the news media was made for people like me. I was a news junkie, I followed the news, I had fantastic newspapers, I had fantastic broadcasters. But we know that new audiences don’t have the same relationship with traditional news providers as I did as I was growing up.
“When I look at my son, who is 18, and my daughter, who is 22, they live in an environment of social media. And that needs a different way of considering what is the news. How do we engage particularly younger audiences in what matters and why?”
The business model is evolving:
- News Movement has partnerships with the AP among others to help it produce content to appeal to that 18-to-25 market.
- It gets some revenue from what it publishes on the platforms.
- It has a studio and what you might call a native advertising team to produce advertising or corporate content to address that same audience.
Content is created as video, text, audio and visual storytelling devices.
The News Movement considers itself in a beta launch stage, but Ahmed says it has encouraging levels of engagement and absolute levels of traffic. But, he says, he’s so far most interested in people sharing News Movement content with their friends, bookmarking it, and showing interest. An early explainer on Ukraine, a simple geographic description of where the country is, got more than a million views on TikTok, evidently meeting a need for some basic, reliable, information. In general, The News Movement isn’t relying on driving people back to its own site.
The principles The News Movement is working to are familiar to any newsroom but are turned into more of a formula or a recipe that the 20-plus staff — average age 24 — work towards. Its newsroom effectively doubled to 16 with new hires announced this week and U.S. expansion to come.
“The formats are very different, the formula is quite is similar,” Ahmed said. “We have an approach which is based on our principles. What are the facts that as we can establish, and can we admit where we have gaps? What is the context that helps people have a richer picture of this whole story? What are the relevant opinions that our audiences should know about? And also what is the onward action? What do I go and do? What is the thing I can go and read? Or if I’m interested in this, how can I go deeper?
“That structure — facts, context, relevant opinions — is how we define helpful and useful.”
Ahmed and Lewis both argue that the market to serve young people is so large, the time spent in platforms like Tik Tok so huge, that many news publishers need to address that audience. And some — like the AP — may choose to work with The News Movement to help them find a way.
“The idea that somehow young people don't have any time or don’t want to watch any more than 10 seconds is not true. But you need to have the right hooks, the right signals, to attract younger audiences into these areas without making them feel stupid or lost,” Ahmed said.
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