Your reading list on news product trends that will continue in 2021

19 August 2020
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As the world returns from holiday and goes back to work, we are also welcoming our Future of News community ‘back to school’. As we all prepare for 2021, and accelerate work on end of year projects, we have gathered 5 articles that will help better inform your news product strategy going forward.

#1 De-anonymising readers with registration walls

As data privacy regulations continue to tighten, knowing your readers becomes ever more important. That’s one reason why we have seen more and more publishers adding a new step to their subscription journeys: the registration wall. This can help to create more detailed user profiles, and now instead of thinking there are two different users on desktop and mobile, publishers are able to link reading activities together via the user’s email address. With this deeper understanding of readers’ behaviors, publishers are then able to better convert them into paying subscribers.

Research from Piano found that the average conversion rate of registered users is 10x that of anonymous visitors. Read more on adopting a registration wall in your subscriber journey.

#2 Experimenting with personalisation

There is a definite interest in personalisation in the news industry. A recent webinar in our ‘Future of News’ series on personalisation attracted publishers from more than 20 different countries. However there’s a real lack of experience with personalisation for news, versus customisation where users simply declare their preferences. In news personalisation projects, it is very important to balance true personalisation (match with interests) with top news (what is trending), as readers still come to news for news itself. That’s what we have focused on with our personalisation technology JAMES, Your Digital Butler, which helps to create reader habits by delivering the best content for each individual reader.

For more on how other publishers are focusing their personalisation projects, and how to get started with JAMES, check out the full story here.

#3 Exploring new, finishable products

In our conversations with publishers this summer, we have been seeing a trend of refreshing existing edition products and creating new, finishable products. It’s something we’ve been keeping an eye on for a while, so we’re happy to see this concept break out into the mainstream.

Based on recent numbers shared by Ouest-France, it appears L’Edition du Soir has become one of the most-read digital-only editions in Europe. Back in 2013, the Ouest-France team were true visionaries, creating one of the first digital news products that kept all the aspects of an edition, without having a print counterpart. Since then we have seen the trend spread across Europe, such as with The Economist’s Espresso app. This year we saw the trend jump over to the other side of the Atlantic as well.

The evening edition has served as a sandbox for innovation.

Edouard Reis Carona, Digital Editor at Ouest-France

As publishers focus on meeting their audience where they already are, new edition-based products will continue to be an area of exploration. Learn from the original digital-only edition, in the full article here.

Make sure to also join us on September 1st for our webinar with Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph. He’ll be sharing how The Telegraph’s digital edition plays an important role in their Project Habit.

#4 News access on alternative social platforms continues to grow

While TikTok was first launched internationally in 2017, for many news publishers this is still an unexplored platform. Of the handful of traditional print publishers on TikTok, most are still in an experimental phase, trying to understand what content works best. The most famous newspaper TikTok account is undoubtedly The Washington Post, thanks to the work of Dave Jorgenson.

On a pure business level, it would be completely crazy if you didn’t try to appeal to an app that 1 billion people have downloaded — many of them under 20. That’s so many potential subscribers to your newspaper, so why wouldn’t you take them seriously?

Dave Jorgenson, creative video at The Washington Post

For more on this fast-growing app, which has now overtaken Facebook in number of app downloads, check out the full story here.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the growth of Instagram for news as well, which is poised to overtake Twitter in usage for news next year.

#5 Puzzles play an essential role in reader engagement

Puzzles and games have long been an important component of the news experience, which we have only seen continue to grow as people are spending more time alone at home. Newspapers have leveraged games and puzzles in the past to grow reader habits, with some publishers even offering puzzle-only subscriptions now.

Getting a paying relationship with a user allows us over time to expand and let them see all the things The New York Times can bring.

Eric von Coelln, Executive Director, Puzzles at The New York Times

Research from The Wall Street Journal’s “Project Habit” found that using puzzles increased retention significantly, but less than 1% of the audience had played a puzzle in the past. With this data in mind, they have since revamped their onboarding process to encourage new subscribers to play a puzzle in their first week and further built out their puzzle offering, adding jigsaw puzzles featuring illustrations from articles.

Learn more about the news habit-forming power of puzzles here.

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