The Master Report: Surviving the new era of digital news

This was a sponsored post by South China Morning Post under the Master Report series.

Today, more people are online consuming, and sometimes, creating their own news. In fact, the issue of creating “online falsehoods”, or otherwise known as “fake news”, has become so big that locally in Singapore the government is set to create new legislation to combat these issues.

A 10-member group was formed earlier this year by the government to examine the impact of fake news on the country. According to later reports by the committee, Singapore’s diverse social landscape was seen to create “wide opportunities” for falsehoods that could put the nation’s social fabric and cohesion under threat.

Despite publishers and government bodies doing their part to rid the industry of “rotten news”, consumers are still impacted. According to the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018, 54% of the respondents said they were “very or extremely concerned” about what is real/what is fake on the internet, regarding news. Only 51% of the respondents trusted the news they read and only 23% of people said they trusted news on social media platforms (23%).

This also led to Facebook recently removing 559 pages and 251 accounts that it deemed to have broken its rules against spam and co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour. According to a blog post by Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, and Oscar Rodriguez, product manager, one common type of spam in the past were posts that hawked fraudulent products such as fake sunglasses or weight loss “remedies”.

Today, this has evolved to people creating networks of pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posting clickbait content on these pages. This is in a bid to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms.

With so much white noise out there, publications are now striving to create a trusted image of themselves online. But the task is not easy given the competitive nature of news reporting in this day and age – and many fall prey to clickbait.

To retain a strong base of readers online, which in turn can attract marketing dollars, publishers must find a way to come across as a credible source of information, while captivating the audience. Given that only 14% of people today are ready to pay for news online, according to The University of Oxford’s report, the vast majority of the revenue for news publishers is still driven by advertising.

Another issue plaguing publishers is the rise of ad blockers. According to a report by Ipsos Global, most consumers consider online advertising a nuisance – and 82% of consumers globally believe it gets in the way of what they are trying to do. The study added the most alarming statistic for advertisers is that more than half of internet users globally (57%) claim to block ads – either by using ad blocking software or manually closing out of ads.

The Ipsos study also added that ad blocking is most common in emerging economies, with India topping the list with 76% claiming to use ad blockers. This may be due to how these users are accessing the internet – with smartphones rather than PCs. Smartphone users have a greater motivation for blocking ads as they slow down page-load speeds and increase the amount of data being used and take up limited screen space.

This is where content marketing comes in and marketers today must change the lens to a longer term view on what to expect from customers and improving the relationship over time.

The emphasis, in this new era of digital news and ad blocking, must be placed on high-quality content that will engage the readers, with whom brands expect to have a more authentic relationship with. And marketers have understood this. According to a report on B2B content marketing, more than half of those interviewed who don’t currently have content marketing in place aim to launch a content marketing effort.

Meanwhile, nearly 65% of respondents said their overall content marketing success has increased (much more/somewhat more) compared with one year ago. Compared with last year (68%), there was an 18% increase among respondents who agree their organisation is focused on building audiences (80%).

Publishers can further push this along by using a data-driven approach and looking at various customer metrics on their websites to drive actions, and personalise content to make the investment more worthwhile for the marketer. All of this, if executed well, will see content marketing increase customer loyalty and eventually increase revenue for both the publisher and the brand marketer.

Catch more here on how SCMP raised their game to reach target audiences:

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