Not interested in news, you say? I have a follow-up question

April 28, 2012

No-press

How news orgs can repackage and rebrand their products and services to reach secondary audiences

Pop survey: How much do you enjoy maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D in your body?

Not at all? Come on, it’s good for you!

OK, try this one: How much do you enjoy spending time outside on a sunny day?

A lot? Me, too.

One more: How much do you enjoy a glass of ice cold milk?

A lot as well? Hey, we should hang out sometime.

When we do, we can drink milk on my stoop and laugh about how you actually do enjoy maintaining your vitamin D intake after all. And, if you’re not too busy, I’ll tell you how you probably enjoy news a lot more than you think, too.

A newly published study by a University of Texas at Austin professor and doctoral student (pdf), which made headlines last week for pegging young males interested in news as the demographic most likely to pay for news, asked respondents directly about their affinity for news, just like I asked you about vitamin D.

Here is authors Iris Chyi and Angela M. Lee‘s exact question:

In general, how much do you enjoy keeping up with the news?

They received the response you might guess: Not so much. Only 37 percent said they enjoyed it a lot.

Would the proportion have been higher had they said “following” or “consuming?” “Keeping up with” makes it sound like a chore. In any case, the proportion definitely would have been higher had they asked about the editorial equivalents of nice weather and thirst-quenching drinks.

Are you interested in news? Maybe not. Are you interested in whether the schools are any good? Are you interested in what’s open or closed during a disaster? Are you interested in what you’re friends are reading? Are you interested in where to find lunch? Are you interested in protecting your children? Probably so.

News organizations do a good job of providing such utility. Just good luck finding it. The examples linked to above are the exception. Focused, interactive and action-oriented, they package content for the audience and situation rather than packaging it for some arbitrary atomic unit of news. (Trying to find a new one is missing the point.)

Chyi-lee

Indirect reasons people consume news, such as easing boredom, satisfying the need to read and feeling socially connected, which Chyi and Lee mention, offer opportunities as well.

So, yes, if they want people to be interested in news, and perhaps pay for it, news organizations should make their content and services more accessible.

But, in marketing and in editorial presentation, they also must communicate that it is. This is what gets the subconsciously interested in news consciously interested in news, a crucial first step.

It sounds obvious, but, once people say they’re interested in news, Chyi and Lee found, they are considerably more likely to pay for it. Only age was a stronger predictor.

That brings us back to news organizations’ perfect paying customer: the young male interested in news. According to the authors’ survey, which weighted a 767-person online sample to represent the U.S. Internet population, he’s a minority of a minority of a minority: Most users are over 34 (66%), female (52%) and not interested in news (60%).

Given the demographics, news organizations should cater to him but shouldn’t bend over backward for him. Converting a small percentage of the age, gender and affinity majorities, through the repackaging and rebranding this post outlines, could be just as lucrative.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Daniel Dionne

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