How many of you are using Snapchat Discover? A question asked for the audience by Aron Pilhofer, Executive Editor of Digital at the Guardian, at WeWork (a beautiful coworking and co-creating space in Moorgate) tonight when discussing the future of news in a digital world. The topic, moderated by Quartz, a digitally native news outlet for business people, and co-organised by General Assembly, has been a centre point of discussion for sometime. Tonight the focus was on the news formats, sources and even algorithms!
There were many hands up (answering the question) in the audience, including the speakers, confirming that mobile apps, like Snapchat Discover, and social media are now as legitimate sources to connect with a story as newspapers’ websites. In fact stories, including videos, that are being re-distributed by digital users via social media platforms have proven to have more impact than a headlined article on a news website. That said, mobile news formats are not actually as threatening for the news organisations as it was thought. Sarah Marshall, Social Media Editor at The Wall Street Journal, said she is actually quite happy that people are reading the news on mobile platforms rather than on the website, because it makes us actually read the whole article!
The comment about publishers knowing too much of their readers’ data was not seen as a problem for Sarah. ‘It’s actually a great thing to collect data as we can learn so much from them, we can make the whole experience much better, while also being able to allocate the right format and platform for the interested audience without just bombarding every reader on a digital platform with every story’. Allocating content on different platforms and formats is actually an important part of the publishing business as both agreed that a story based on only one source is not trustworthy enough for the readers, who are in fact expecting that a story they can trust comes from multiple (digital) sources.
As regards to the algorithms and news, Google’s Head of Strategic Relations, News & Publishers, Madhav Chinnappa, pointed out that while for Google’s technical team writing an algorithm is about finding the best response to a query, a social media platform, like Facebook, works with much complex data to consider and no direct query to deal with. On the same subject, one industry insider from the audience was quick in recommending to the news publishers not to rely on the algorithms too much as they are often misleading for the purpose of reaching the right audience.
Other topics, such as digital training, real time data measurement and instant articles, were also debated tonight at WeWork, with participants concluding that the pace of change in this area is often faster than conclusions from a debate.