Arab News of Saudi Arabia is trying to change perceptions.
CNN is working across the company to grow a sustainable business model.
Reuters is creating content for three different paying audiences.
The commonality? All are building international brands, which involves bringing newsrooms into the business of journalism. During INMA’s World Congress for News Media on Tuesday, sponsored by Stibo DX, executives from these three news media companies shared stories of how they are doing just that.
Arab News works to change global image
“We in the Middle East or in the Arab world complain a lot about always being misunderstood, and I think the driving force in Arab News is that we would rather light a candle than complain about the darkness,” Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said.
In addition to expanding the online edition of Arab News’s flagship English-language edition, the publication has also stretched its global reach by launching Japanese, French, and Pakistani editions, with plans for more language editions on the way.
Arab News is owned by the Saudi Research and Media Group, which has close ties to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. U.S. intelligence has said it belives the Crown Prince approved the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Khashoggi was a friend to Abbas.
“It’s true that Jamal was a dear friend of mine,” he said. “I’ve actually known him for a very long time. He was the deputy editor long before I joined, but I actually worked with him before. His children are my friends, and one is a former colleague.”
INMA Newsroom Initiative Lead Peter Bale asked if coverage of the murder had made it more difficult for Arab News to be taken seriously in other languages and other parts of the world. Abbas said the contrary was true, and he believes they came out stronger and more credible.
“What happened the next day, I saw the newspaper being the only one covering it. By 6 or 7 pm, I thought that no one had noticed. Then I looked up and saw our front page being plastered up on CNN, and literally the correspondent in Saudi Arabia reading our editorial. It was one of the few occasions when the Saudi media was praised for its coverage.”
Bale asked where Abbas would like to see Arab News in five years. He said he wants to add even more language editions, including Spanish, perhaps Greek, and Chinese, and also to continue to promote great understanding of the region to a growing audience.
“We complain a lot about being misunderstood. I think we’ve done an incredibly fair job in terms of trying to correct narrative. We want to correct misconceptions and report on stories.”
CNN stays focused on funding journalism
Marcus Mabry, senior vice president of content strategy and global programming for CNN digital worldwide, acknowledges the well-known CNN brand is undoubtedly powerful.
“When there’s breaking news, there’s a Pavlovian response around the world with people coming to CNN,” he said. “But although they may come for the breaking news, we’re increasingly trying to give them a greater breadth of diverse content that will keep them coming back.”
Mabry’s global programming team sits at the nexus of the content desks, the business and revenue sides of the digital business, and CNN partners.
“It’s incredibly fulfilling to help make journalism successful,” Mabry said. “Without a sustainable business model, journalism — which probably all of us think is a fulcrum of a healthy democracy — can’t go on. It has to be sustainable in order to exist.”
Toward that end, one of his team’s jobs is to look very precisely at audience involvement and segmentation to analyse what works with different parts of the audience. This can be useful for possible sponsorships but also involves looking out toward future opportunities they might be able to engage with as a business.
Not only does Mabry’s team look at an editorial dashboard daily to see (for instance) how many unique users visit the different sections of CNN’s site, parts of this daily report are also shared with CNN’s partners.
Reuters courts 3 distinct audiences
Reuters represents 85 nations, publishes stories in 15 languages, and reaches billions of people everyday.
“One of the complexities of our organisation is we don't have one single audience,” Simon Robinson, global managing editor at Reuters, told World Congress attendees. Robinson explained there are multiple audiences, which Reuters has grouped into three main audiences.
- Refinitiv, an American-British company that provides financial information to its users, and is a large part of its revenue.
- Reuters News Agency, which supplies news to television news networks, new sites, and newspapers to thousands of media organisations around the world. This audience also includes tech companies, governments, and corporations.
- The third audience is what Robinson called, “consumers and professionals,” which is the content seen on the Reuters.com Web site and includes content from both of the other audiences.
“Each of those audience sets has different needs,” Robinson said. He explained some key factors: “Speed is important, being on the ground, being everywhere, covering breaking news as it happens, and also deep insight to put breaking news into context.”
Robinson explained the main changes in the Reuters newsrooms over the past few years.
Integrated language service, which integrates the 15 languages with core national services, including automated translations.
Newsroom of the Future, a project that rethought the way the newsroom is run. From this project, Reuters moved away from having three large regions and integrated into a global approach. “It was helpful and set us up for covering such large global stories,” Robinson said.
Moving content to the cloud allowed editing to be more flexible. Editors weren’t limited to working in one specific place.
Expanding formats, such as developing investigative journalism, complex financial graphics, caption videos, and creating a new format around political briefs, which “collected all coverage of politics in a region once place rather than separate stories.”
“All of these changes remained true to the trust principles,” Robinson said. “These applied not only to journalists, but everyone at Reuters.”