A Whole New World: As readers move more toward digital, how are newspapers fulfilling their needs?

Author:Mateos, Evelyn
 
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For so long newspapers have designed content with the print customer in mind, but times are changing. A recent Pew Research Center study based on 3,425 U.S. adults concluded that of those that preferred to read the news (as opposed to listening or watching the news), 63 percent preferred reading online verses 17 percent that preferred print.

As more consumers turn to digital, unquestionably their needs and wants will differ from the traditional print consumer. So, how are newsrooms catering to their reading experience? E&P asked some newsroom leaders to find out.

Print Vs. Digital Consumers

Even with the high amount of people receiving news online, it can be easy to forget that there are still consumers out there that enjoy the print product. In fact, a report by The Media Insight Project (a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The AP-Norc Center for Public Affairs) surveyed 4,100 newspaper subscribers across 90 local newspapers throughout the country and identified a few paths (or groups) that still prefer print over digital, specifically those who have "a nostalgic attachment to the print paper itself," said Jeff Sonderman, API's deputy executive director.

"They want to have a print paper at Sunday morning with coffee and their breakfast. It's not so much that they like the content of the paper but they like that experience in their life, and it's something that they have done for a long time," he said.

On the other hand, the digital reader is more complex. Of the report's nine groups, two are clearly digital-based: the digital paywall converters and the social media-mobile discoveries. However, many others can either benefit from digital engagement or already engage digitally, such as the topic hunters, who look for coverage on a particular subject and consisted of 23 percent of the surveys participants--the second largest group after journalism advocates (24 percent).

"In digital spaces, we find that readers follow their passions and their interests more strongly," Sonderman said. "When you're reading in print you're in more of a browsing mode where youH flip page to page through sections you might not be that interested in to see what's there. For the most part, because of the way that digital works, you're choosing a link to click, you're making a much more focused decision on 'Do I care about that thing to go there and spend time?'"

On top of that, the digital reader has the "whole world" available to them, Sonderman said. Hence, news publishers really need to ask themselves what kind of content will their readers engage with and go from there.

Newsrooms and Audiences Evolve

Advancing technology has led the news industry to evolve over time and it continues to do so. According to an INMA report by Dietmar Schantin, founder and CEO of Institute for Media Strategies, media companies are currently shifting into a mobile-centric newsroom.

"The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 revolutionized the way people interact with technology," Schantin wrote. "For most news websites today, mobile phones are the number one device people use to visit a site and the share is still growing."

Schantin recalls a time when news organizations began putting print content online and there were separate teams for print and web. Digital employees were...

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