Smaller, Engaged Audiences Key for Digital News Outlets: Report

The report looks at three digital news outlets from the “global south” as case studies, including The Quint.

Published28 Oct 2019, 03:13 PM IST
2 min read

A report, authored by researchers at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), has found that smaller, well-engaged audiences can play a significant role in sustaining digital media outlets.

The report titled ‘What if Scale Breaks Community? Rebooting Audience Engagement When Journalism is Under Fire’, looks at three digital news outlets from the “global south” as case studies, including The Quint, Philippines-based Rappler and South Africa-based Daily Maverick.

The report finds that in response to political attacks, platform capture and other challenges, these news organisations are evolving – they are moving from audience engagement at scale and are increasingly focused on “forging deeper, narrower, and stronger relationships with audiences” laying emphasis on personalised encounters with niche audiences.

Key Findings

According to the report, surviving solely on scaled engagement can be a difficult prospect for digital news media outlets as online/social media platforms can be subject to various forms of ‘platform capture’ and can see frequent changes their products and policies.

Another challenge is the ‘weaponisation’ of online platforms, which includes prolific harassment and digital security threats, among other things.

It suggests “remaining audience-led and rebooting engagement” in such an event.

The report claims that these audiences, once ‘weaponised’, can’t be recalibrated through direct engagement at scale, but engaging smaller audiences can have a bigger impact.

It also finds that orchestrated online harassment campaigns can significantly impact not only journalists’ health, safety and security but also the online communities which subscribe to the news outlets.

Civic engagement, according to the report, is a good alternative which can create loyal audiences. It takes the example of The Quint’s MyReport citizen journalism initiative, along with Rappler’s Move.PH.

It suggests that even though building membership programmes is not a straightforward move, news outlets are moving to membership as a natural progression along their separate trajectories of audience engagement.

It observes that loyal audiences and members can be seen as “guardians of the outlets and their mission” supporting journalism in countries where “media freedom is under threat and democratic norms are eroding”.

“If Rappler, Daily Maverick, and The Quint can reboot audience engagement with their limited resources while facing extreme external pressures, so too can many other news organisations in less challenging circumstances,” it concludes.

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