Kamal Ahmed, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the US/UK based media company, equates the traditional model of journalism to media organisations living in castles, deciding what’s important for the audience, opening the castle door, throwing the news product to them and closing the door shut.

This power dynamic of news media as producers and audience as consumers has fundamentally shifted, Ahmed said. Modern audiences communicate with the media directly.

So, is the media industry, then, addressing the audience challenge and moving quickly enough to consider how social media has changed the audience-publisher relationship?

“We were the gatekeepers of our castle. Now, the owners of the real power in our industry are, quite rightly, the audience. This means we need drastically different models of how we communicate, and bring our audiences into our journalism,” he said.

Ahmed joined WAN-IFRA’s recent World News Media Congress in Taipei, to talk about how they are creating content to better connect with Gen Z.

The News Movement (TNM) is the culmination of the skills and experience of five publishing executives – Kamal Ahmed (former Editorial Director of BBC News), William Lewis (former CEO of Dow Jones, Publisher, The Wall Street Journal), Ramin Beheshti (former Group Chief Product and Technology Officer at Dow Jones), Eleanor Breen (former Chief of Staff at Dow Jones), and Dion Bailey (former VP, Head of Technology and Architecture at The Wall Street Journal). 

Matching Gen Z’s news expectations

Research from the company shows 75 percent of the younger demographic, particularly the 18-25 year olds, receive their first piece of information about any issue on social media first. 

News avoidance and declining lack of interest continue to be major challenges for publishers seeking to find and engage new audiences: Overall 36% of respondents say they actively try to avoid the news, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023.

“These young consumers are moving into new spaces often populated by misinformation. Spaces populated not by journalism, not by the rigour of facts, non-partisan relevant information but by people who want to take them down rabbit holes … who try to tell them things are true when they are not. Our job is to tackle that,” Ahmed said.

The News Movement found its purpose in wanting to rethink news with a new flavour – in a way that sits happily alongside traditional media.

Social media – first point of contact – crucial for growth

2022 was the first year of TNM’s live operations, culminating in the official launch in October. Its growth has been substantial and sustained, and the numbers speak for themselves.

TNM has increased the size of its first audience-facing brand – TNM Editorial – from 0 to 160k+ followers, a figure that is growing 15 percent month-on-month. Its new acquisition, The Recount, grew 45 percent YoY 2021 to 2022. It also clocks over 80 million views for TNM Editorial and an average engagement rate of 10 percent.

“We launched social media-first, because if you don’t get that first touchpoint correct, particularly with younger audiences, they will go on and do other things. Everything else can follow,” he said. 

Everything TNM does is driven initially by what the audience can do on their mobile phones. Their hypothesis is to tell news and choose stories differently. 

“We call it friends finding out together. We call it horizontal news. People communicate in mobile spaces differently than how they do in linear spaces. We build communities, have conversations, take people on journeys,” Ahmed said.

This hypothesis is working in terms of the speed of the company’s growth and the numbers. The average age of TNM’s newsroom is 25 years. Fifty-nine percent of its consumers are between the ages of 18 and 24, with an 8x YoY organic follower growth.  

Amhed said the user need is developing as an idea around platform vernacular. “If the audience likes what we do in spaces where they live, they will then come to other places that we build for them,” he said.

Exploring diverse revenue sources

TNM’s revenue streams are varied and not platform dependent. It focuses on four buckets: 

Data and analytics
Media partners

“Our purpose is journalism. Making money straight from journalism is extremely hard work. But with this business model – verified revenue streams – we believe we can build a profitable business, and we are on that journey,” Ahmed said.

A typical day in TNM’s newsroom begins with scrutinising data from the past 90 days, and observing conversations on social media spaces among young people.

TNM is a believer of thinking deeply about what new journalism looks like and believing its audience is smart. 

“People are tired of rabbit holes they’re being sent down by the algorithm,” he said. “We trust that audiences want to know about the world in a fair and reasonable way, and we need to give it to them in an engaging way, and not be condescending. We’re not parents, we’re friends.”

This approach helps TNM build trust with its audience and allows it to move into new and different spaces.

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