FRIDAY 5 JUL 2024 2:56 PM

TUNE IN, DROP OUT, RE-ENGAGE

Lina Saigol, director at Bladonmore, discusses the rise of the news explainer and what it means for businesses.

The rapid fragmentation of the media means that businesses have more ways of reaching global audiences than ever before. Yet users are accessing news less frequently than in the past and they’re also becoming less interested, according to Reuters' 2024 Digital News Report. That’s left both the media scrambling for ways of re-engaging their audiences by focusing on what they value in terms of content, storytelling and delivery formats. How should businesses respond?

Setting the scene

More and more people are avoiding the news. One of the reasons they give is that they can’t understand it.

That’s one of the bleak conclusions drawn by three academics in their new book: Avoiding the News: Reluctant Audiences for Journalism and it’s forcing both media and communications professionals to rethink their strategies.

The news, the authors write, can often feel like an insider’s game – packed with jargon and often missing context. Reading just one political story, for example, is like “dipping into the middle of the sixth episode of the fourth season of Game of Thrones and expecting to be able to rely on Google to piece together what’s happening and why it matters,’’ the authors write.

One strategy media outlets are adopting to re-engage audiences is more ‘explainer journalism’. Instead of just reporting the news, so-called explainers aim to bring some sense and order to the daily onslaught of information by taking complex subjects and breaking them down in an easily accessible and digestible way for ordinary readers.

In short, explainers don’t assume knowledge but instead give audiences the crucial background they need to understand a news story. Sites including Vox, Upshot and Axios are all offering journalism that seeks to explain the news – or put it into context. Mainstream media, like the New York Times, Bloomberg and the BBC, have gone as far as siloing explainer journalism.

What should businesses do?

Communication professionals should take note, especially at a time when many companies are choosing to bypass the media and publish their own content.

This trend is only going to go one way so the faster communications teams can adapt, the greater their share of voice. Here are three things to consider; prioritise, contextualise and connect.

Prioritise
Choose your audiences based on their ability to reach target audiences and package your content accordingly. Media has fragmented into numerous platforms and channels, so it matters where you place your content. Stories can be told through data visualisations, short videos or interactive features which can help boost engagement.

Contextualise

Be disciplined about selecting the crucial background that the audience needs.

Readers rarely follow a story from the beginning so if they start in the middle of an unfolding event, they need to be guided through complex concepts. The responsibility for this lies largely with the media but you can help by limiting your jargon and always giving some context around the stories that you share. 

Connect

TikTok users appear to pay more attention to news delivered from ordinary people and social media influencers over traditional news outlets, according to several recent studies. That should apply to the business world, too, which can make better use of stories to effectively communicate a message and help differentiate itself from its competitors. A compelling story grabs attention.