How chat apps are changing the reader, media company relationship

By Jessica Berger

Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine (HNA)

Kassel, Hesse, Germany


Once upon a time there was a reader who wanted to contact a newspaper journalist to ask some questions about a published article. Because phone calls were expensive and, of course, there was no Internet, the reader sat down at his wooden table and wrote a letter by hand with all his questions.

One day later he took his letter to the post office. Three days later the journalist received the piece of mail. Because the editor had a lot to do, it took some days to answer the reader. But at least one week later, the reader received a piece of mail — and all the answers to his question.

Today that scenario is unimaginable! Through e-mail and messaging platforms, readers can contact a news media company easily. And, especially with chat apps, the communication between readers and editors has reached a new level.

HNA’s team is using emojis on WhatsApp.
HNA’s team is using emojis on WhatsApp.

According to studies in 2016, 1.58 billion mobile phone users worldwide accessed messaging apps to communicate. This figure is projected to grow to 2.48 billion users in 2021. It is clear news media companies will have to adjust and use messaging platforms more and more to communicate with their customers. And chat apps have so many advantages.

Customer closeness

Whether it’s WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line, or WeChat, companies should use platforms users prefer. Of course, the popularity in each country is different. In Germany, for example, WhatsApp is the most-used messaging platform.

With chat apps, a company and its clients are in direct exchange. For users, for example, it’s pretty simple to contact a newspaper using WhatsApp, and for the journalists it’s easy to answer. No searching for phone numbers, no waiting in the queue, no waiting for return call. Just a one-to-one correspondence.

According to a German study about customer contact, people prefer to be in contact with a company via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other chat apps rather than via mail or a phone call.

Furthermore, the trust between readers and editors grows. Behind the newspaper, there will no longer be anonymous profiles. Your company will have a face and can be part of a user’s life.

Beyond that, it is increasingly possible to integrate messaging platforms within existing systems. For example, with a tool like WhatsApp, CRM systems can be connected.

Presenting news in a different, individualised way

An article with 300 lines on WeChat or Facebook Messenger? No.

On messaging platforms, editors share news in a different way. It is short and compact, reduced to essential points. But it is also a little bit entertaining: Every platform has different multi-media options such as the chance to link to a Web site and add photos, videos, GIFs, stickers, filters, emojis, and so on. With those features, news gets a new look, and people love it.

To offer more service to users, chat bots can be used. With bots, users only get the content they want, and bots make journalists‘ work easier because messages are sent automatically. For example, a reader sends #trafficjam via a chat app to a local newspaper, and he immediately gets an overview with all the current traffic jams in his town.

Chat bots also make it possible to order food from a delivery service, receive fashion advice from a label, or find suitable recipes for things you have in your refrigerator.

Attracting younger users

Younger audiences especially love chat apps. They love to send messages and voice mails. They don’t answer with text; they reply with emojis or gifs. By using chat apps as a news media company, you can attract younger users.

These users probably won’t buy your newspaper in the morning at the kiosk. It is more likely they will get your news from your company’s Facebook Messenger service, for example. Of course, they use it because it’s free, and they can get content on a platform they use anyway. But with chat apps, you can build up a new target group and create a new customer base.

For example, HNA is using WhatsApp to send regional news to customers. And the German news media company reaches a younger audience because of it: 25% of the target group is younger than 35. In comparison, the average age of a newspaper reader is about 60 years.

Chat apps and bots offer so many opportunities. Media companies should try new things and shouldn’t return to a time when contact with users was unusual. When media companies find new ways to offer news on different platforms — compatible with the user’s preferred wishes — a happy end could be possible.

About Jessica Berger

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