Ten short years ago, the news business was a monopoly, with editors running command and control of the news we received. Content production was based on an editor's judgment of what was important. There was no real-time way to know which stories were read the most or had the biggest impact.
Thanks to the infiltration of analytics into everything digital, we, the audience, are now the engines of the news business. And many of us are also the producers.
At my previous company, Omniture, we saw the beginning of this transformation, as sites used our analytics software to optimize content consumption. Today, analytics still define and direct a healthy portion of the stories that are written. However, the power of brand strongly influences what gets consumed.
If you think about analytics as bringing an audience to water, brand is often what makes them drink. Brands built by news outlets, news reporters and the people in our networks whom we respect, all go a long way in determining what content makes it through our human filter after technology has done its job serving it up.
The changing nature of news ensures that we get more of the information we want and less of the noise that we don't want. For the CEO-as-a-consumer segment, the importance of brand is clearly evident.
In a new report from Domo and CEO.com, The Wall Street Journal held its place as the leading source for business news among chief executives. It was number one ten years ago, and it remains number one today. Clearly, the brand still wields tremendous influence despite the rise of countless online publications.
The enduring success of The Wall Street Journal represents an important lesson for all publishers: stay true to your brand. If you are known for great writing and reporting, don't abandon that for quick-hit pieces just because they may drive more short-term traffic to your site. Always make sure what you deliver is on-brand for your audience. Even if you open up your online platform to outside voices, your core offering must remain a vital part of who you are.
Another key lesson for media brands trying to reach this elusive audience of business leaders: get to the punch line quickly. Our report found that 57% of CEOs prefer to consume business information in text format, while only 8% prefer to sit through a video. This is not surprising given that one of CEOs' most valuable resources is time. Indeed, 70% admit they seldom read an article from top to bottom — preferring to scan the main points instead.
While the Journal has kept its edge in the digital world, other traditional sources of business information have not been so fortunate. A decade ago, nearly 25% of CEOs relied on local newspapers, magazines and TV for much of their information. But today, those data sources are less important to CEOs, according to our study.
Instead, social media and the pervasiveness of analytics in web content, is taking our relationship with the news to the next level. Personally, I like to know what people in my business and personal networks are reading or know. That's why tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Flipboard are so valuable to me, and why, according to our report, they are gaining in importance to other CEOs.
This has massive implications for media. It's also why I believe publications such as Forbes and Fast Company, and new media sites like LinkedIn, are looking less like traditionally staffed media outlets and more like full-scale publishing platforms. They are part of the open-world order that allows people get more of what they want, and less of what they don't.
I believe the social nature of news is unstoppable — not only because it's smarter, but because it is based on a level of trust that has already been established by the personal brands of the people who produce or recommend the content. Beyond the analytics, content connected to trusted entities — people, publications or companies — creates the ideal environment to foster meaningful engagement.
What's also unstoppable is the shift toward content consumption on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Our report found that 92% of CEOs still use a laptop daily. But 60% access business information on a smartphone every day. And 35% now spend as much time on their tablets as they do on their laptops. That means publishers must make it easier and more intuitive for executives to consume content on mobile devices.
And while analytics, social and mobile technologies are helping us more effectively reach the right consumers, the Wall Street Journal's staying power is a good reminder for media to keep nurturing their brands.
Josh James founded Domo in 2010 to help CEOs and other executives transform the way they manage business and drive value from the tens of billions of dollars spent on traditional business intelligence systems. He also co-founded and was CEO of web analytics powerhouse Omniture. Under his leadership, Omniture helped more than 6,000 customers worldwide - including the world's most recognizable brands in media, consumer goods and advertising - leverage their web data to optimize their business. Josh can be reached at email@example.com.
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