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Guest Column: Most newsrooms are indifferent to their audience

12-April-2013
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Guest Column: Most newsrooms are indifferent to their audience

With traditional news platforms facing serious challenge from social media enthusiasts, journalists have now begun to earnestly ponder over the need for finding ways to engage with audiences, whether online or in person. Most of our media organisations are habitual of treating their audience with utmost indifference in view of the current structure, which does not open up any window for any constructive engagement with their audiences while determining content prioritisation.

As sustaining and engaging audiences have become increasingly difficult due to availability of either alternate news tabs or second screen, most media organisations have been getting their acts together in trying to extract best of social media tools. But what is quite worrying is that it’s still not clear how these news organisations can measure whether their attempts at engagement are paying off.

Hence, engagement isn’t just Twitter, Facebook or social media. It’s really getting to know the audience deeply i.e. what they consume casually or regularly.

In India, most of the news television organisations use live events as a tool to reach out to their audience but actually they provide a false sense of perception to a large audience watching passively from home of establishing a more personal connection with them but unfortunately there is no way to gauge whether the audiences have reciprocated effectively.

On the other hand, social journalists are accustomed to thinking about engagement as likes, re-tweets and shares. Undoubtedly, these are more dependable metrics to gauge the audience engagement but social media has already started to think about going beyond Facebook and Twitter to look at ways people can participate in a story.

Among many questions, the most important question for any new-age journalist is how his audience takes the news story forward or even kick-starts something new based on his news report. Many social media journalists find share metric on Facebook as most valuable currency, simply because share opens a post up to new reader networks. In fact, Facebook analytics helps in structuring posts and its social flow for better understanding of the response that readers provide on content on social networks.

In fact, Facebook analytics also provides information on which news post successfully generates better shares and comments. Besides real-time traffic updates can help a news reporter understand as to how his news report evokes engagement in the open digital world.

But isn’t it true that most of the news honchos make assumptions on what their audience wants to see? Don’t these assumptions have a higher chance of going awfully wrong?

Engagement, therefore, isn’t just about quantity, it’s also about quality, something that can be even more difficult to gauge. Engagement has to be very much about how closely audiences are participating in what is being offered by the news organisations. In today’s expanding digital age, if the media organisations do not put a mechanism to gauge the impact of the news reports that are being dished out from the newsroom, it’s a sure sign of their doom as the disconnect with their audiences would only grow. So, engagement is one big step ahead to know what kind of impact their news content is making on their audience.

The real engagement is going to be possible only when traditional news organisations start to pay a close attention to the interactions they should have with their audience by finding ways in which their audience can participate with the news report.

The success of any media organisation in future will only be determined by the outcome of impact their content spread will make on the audiences, which already has a plethora of options for consuming content of their choice.

The writer is Editor-in-Chief, newzstreet.com and former Executive Editor, TV Today Network

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