There is an seemingly endless supply of digital content in the world, and people are spending hours each day on a screen. With so many ways of reaching users, how can news publishers hold user attention with all the competition?
“Everyday, Europeans spend about five to six hours watching a screen, whether on mobile and television,” said Karl Oskar Teien, director of product at Schibsted in Norway.
Teien spoke on day five of the INMA World Congress of News Media, sponsored by Meta, along with other media product leaders from around the world. The World Congress continues throughout May on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Registation is available here for all or individual sessions.
“We know that less than 10% of that time is spent looking at news, and we also know video streaming services are eating up more of the user attention every day,” Teien said.
News as a category in this attention economy is not keeping up, and Teien discussed how Schibsted recognised three paradigm shifts in user behaviour, which led to a huge opportunity for the brand: “We are up against the world’s most powerful companies, and we have to ask ourselves: How can we compete in that kind of world?”
Is audio worth the hype?
This graph from Teien shows continuous growth each year of audio consumption by users in the United States:
“We see more and more people listen, and each person also listens more. Online audio went up 16 hours per week just from 2019 to 2020 in the U.S.,” he said.
Hardware adoption is also changing, with AirPod sales accelerating each year, along with other headset listening devices: “We know that users increasingly want the ability to multi-task, people like to consume something while they’re doing something else.”
Teien also mentioned there is a direct correlation between regular listening and subscriber loyalty at Schibsted, he said: “Companies who offer audio products are seeing users sticking with them as subscribers,” he said. Younger users are also listening to audio content, with six out of ten saying they listen to news podcasts rather than reading news articles.
Users are also willing to pay for audio content and podcasts, as well as subscriptions that include audio.
Schibsted has a strong base in the audio world, making some of the biggest and most popular podcasts in Scandinavia, reaching several hundred thousand users every day with its podcasts: “People already associate our brands with audio experiences,” Teien said.
And over the past year, Schibsted has experimented with subscriber-only podcasts. They acquired a company called PodMe, which is a premium subscription podcast platform. “Now we have 160,000 users paying for paywall podcast content,” he said. “Users are willing to pay for audio content produced by publishers.”
There are challenges, as well, which Teien described for World Congress attendees. But Schibsted is just getting started with its audio strategy: “How do you breakthrough in the attention economy? We think it starts by adapting to the fact that, for many users, the audio-first world is already here.”
The case for apps
Apps that people use for a long time tend to solve for one or more of these four things: convenience, experience, data and personalisation and loyalty, said Durga Raghunath, the former digital head for Times of India.
“It lets you present innovative experiences very quickly to the user. In turn this leads to more consumption, more personalisation and this means you could have a user for almost 10 years.”
Apps are a really strong medium for a transaction first experience but Raghunath said it gets a little bit more complicated when thinking about news apps. She looked at four different aspects when deciding if an app was the best way to go.
When is a news app the right approach?
What are the user metrics we must look at day in and day out?
What is the average revenue per user for apps?
Apps aren’t for the faint hearted (think of it over a three to five- to 10-year time period)
For an app to work, it has to have a minimum threshold for content. Raghunath likes to see a certain frequency of publishing. Typical horizontal news apps tend to provide this easily. Breaking news is also a fundamental use case for an app.
“You’re opening up the app all the time in order to stay informed,” Raghunath said.
Verticals like business or sports apps are also large enough to be treated like horizontals.
“If transactions and subscriptions are a key part of your strategy, I feel an app is a great experience,” Raghunath said.
Raghunath sees one major key metric that everyone should be unified by: “In my opinion it’s very much DAU (Daily Active User),” Raghunath said. “When you have a north star metric like DAU, you’re really focused on bringing the user in day in and day out.”
Logins and notifications are the best way to learn more about the user and activate them, and of course media companies want to consider their average revenue per user. Notifications have become the core of the phone experience. Breaking news can lead a user into a live blog and constantly has the user come back again and again. This often leads to more stories and more impressions.
“The article per user from an app perspective will end up being four to five times your average article otherwise,” Raghunath said. “Purely from an add experience perspective, the app is fundamentally a great platform.”