It’s not an easy time to be a news publisher. First it was the massive disruption to their business model. Now, it’s increasingly loud rhetoric around “fake news” and the growing disengagement of the reading public. The bottom line: It’s not easy out there for news media.
“One of the reasons for this reader disengagement may be the fact that news coverage has become increasingly negative… a consequence of the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’, tragedy-focused journalism strategy we have seen dominating the news world lately,” notes this article in WNIP.
Enter constructive journalism, a sister trend to the slow journalism movement. According to Craig Silverman, editor of BuzzFeed Canada, there exists “a silent majority that is actually tired of news.” He believes that constructive stories – content that focuses on solutions and responses to society’s challenges – can help make readers less cynical about news.
Perhaps my own cynicism is showing here, but when a BuzzFeed editor says this, I have to believe he’s been forced into this new insight by the implosion of ad-funded journalism earlier this year. Regardless of how the insights came about, Silverman is correct. As the WNIP article points out, people engage more with solutions-focused content.
This might seem counter-intuitive, given the crazy way that all things negative, divisive and incendiary are shared across social platforms. It’s important to remember that time spent on this kind of content does not equate with engagement.
Fortunately for news publishers, the tide appears to be turning back to sanity.
“There has been an increase in focus on constructive journalism of late,” notes the WNIP article. “Earlier this month, the Guardian organized a discussion on the impact of the modern news cycle on our health and wellbeing, and whether a greater focus on positive, hopeful, solution-based stories could help to mitigate this.”
That discussion (listen to the podcast here) uncovered some hard truths for the future of news media.
“It’s almost a rejection of the traditional model. Especially in the last few years, it’s been tiring to see the constant negativity and you might feel like you’d rather not read the news at all,” noted participant Julia Migné, co-founder of positive news platform INKLINE.
There are not quick fixes – and simply ignoring the “bad” news isn’t an option. But from a business perspective, there’s an interesting benefit to this solutions-based approach. Constructive journalism is ranking high on important metrics, rather than vanity metrics often sought on digital channels.
“User engagement for constructive stories is higher, and they are often among the most shared content. They are easier to consume, and readers tend to spend more time on such pieces,” the article continues.
Christian Jensen of journalism.co.uk sums it up beautifully, saying: “If the traditional outlets won’t bring more constructive stories to their audience, the readers may find a way to fill that demand themselves proactively by choosing other outlets.”
Awake and aware, a wide swath of consumers are realizing they do have a choice. Once again, we see why news brands should be grateful for the current war on media. This trend toward constructive, solution-based journalism has huge potential for publishers … provided they listen to what their audience is saying and act accordingly.