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News formats of the future

Ofelia Harms Arruti
June 3, 2015

As 60 percent of young Americans get their news off Facebook, there is a growing realization in the media world that news formats have to be smartphone-compatible if the industry is to keep up with the latest trends.

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Image: DW/Mosa'ab Elshamy

"You are all talking about the trends of my generation, but none of you are my age!" This complaint, made by one of the spectators at the World News Media Congress (WNMC) currently running in the US capital, was met by enthusiastic applause from the audience. At the annual summit of the world's press mainly white and grey-haired media people fill the room. This is where the chief executives of the major media companies worldwide are presenting their latest strategies.

One of their main aims is to try to reach and understand the so-called "Millennials" - people currently aged between 19 and 34, who grew up with the Internet. They are the present and the future of news and media consumption.

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center more than half of this group in the US gets their political news mainly on Facebook. By contrast, the "baby boomers" - those aged around 50 today - still get just as much of their political news via the television.

"It is very interesting that 24 percent of Millenials say that even half or more of their content on Facebook relates to politics," says Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research at Pew.

In fact, it is a mistake to think young people have no interest in news or politics, says Robert Picard, a former Director of Research at the Reuters Institute. "They just perceive the world in a very different way and often they find very little about themselves and their own issues and concerns in the news."

Picard says it is also hard to figure out who exactly watches, listens or reads content, for how long they do it, or under which circumstances. "We are living in a time in which audiences are becoming individual content users with unique consumption patterns and that’s why we are all concerned about big data, about being able to understand those patterns."

Mobile first

One issue, however, is becoming very clear. News has to be produced differently for different devices. For the moment, that means getting things right for the smartphone, because news is increasingly being read "on the go."

"We produce things first for mobile consumers," explains Tom Miller, Director of Marketing at newspaper "USA Today."

"Then, when we have more information, it becomes a desktop article and at the end of the day it might be summed up in a print version. But we're thinking mobile first when a story breaks."

Just a few weeks ago, two of Germany's biggest online news sites "Bild.de" and "Spiegel Online" announced their plans to publish complete stories directly on the Facebook app. In the future, messages and multimedia stories will appear on the users' newsfeed, without them having to click on a link that redirects them to the publisher's website. In return, the companies involved provide Facebook with advertising revenue and user data.

Newzulu app
With the Newzulu app, UGC can be uploaded in real timeImage: Newzulu/DW/O. Harms

With just a three second delay

"That's how breaking news will appear online in the future," says Andy Crosby, Senior Vice President Live at Newzulu, a new application that allows User Generated Content (UGC) to go online while it is still being recorded.

"If you look at things like Charlie Hebdo, that was just before all this live streaming technology came in," Crosby says. "So the next time something like that happens we will see live streams coming in from around the world or from that specific spot."

Newzulu's app provides media companies and news agencies with software that allows them to broadcast video footage from correspondents and reporters on their websites "while things are still happening."

"At some point companies might not need broadcast vans anymore," says Crosby.

The first app to provide this technology was Periscope, launched earlier this year. Sensing a trend, Twitter bought the company for $100 million (88.65 million euros) in March.

Newzulu works similarly to Periscope but content is sorted into a news, celebrity and a sports channel. There’s also a three second delay between filming and streaming, to allow time to censor out any profanity or nudity.

With over a billion smartphones around the world and the ever-increasing speed of mobile data networks, Crosby believes this sort of streaming is "the future of reporting and news and essentially a great tool for every journalist."