The changing face of TV news – attracting audiences and remaining relevant
On April 7th BBC News is launching a “digital-first” daytime show broadcasting simultaneously on BBC Two, the BBC News Channel and online. The show will focus on breaking news, interviews and, most importantly, audience interaction through TV, online and social media.
This is an attempt by the BBC to tackle a huge challenge that TV news channels are currently facing: how to stay relevant in a digital age and make themselves attractive to a younger audience – Generation Y.
Launching five weeks before the General Election will be a timely test for whether a digital-first approach will attract the attention of digital natives and engage them in the volumes the BBC would like.
Even though TV remains the most popular way to consume news (last year 75% of us still tuned in to flagship news programmes) how many people actually watch these programmes? The majority, me included, merely tune in to grab the headlines or we are dual screening and watching whilst catching up with other things through our tablets, laptops or phones.
We are relying less on the one-to-many flow of information, with social media platforms instead promoting a more democratic sharing of ideas and breaking news.
With this in mind, the BBC may be onto something with a digital-first approach to target the elusive millennial audience. Figure show a marked rise in the consumption of digital news, driven by increased mobile and tablet use among younger people (16-24). They are ten times more likely than those aged 55 and over to access news on a mobile (40% versus 4%) and twice as likely via a tablet.
The problem for TV news producers and PR/communication professionals alike is that we are becoming a nation of soundbite consumers.
The average attention span now is around 8 seconds, compared to 30 seconds a few years ago. Not long enough to understand and digest the often complicated issues leading the news agenda.
But how do news teams build relationships with digital natives (those who grew up with the internet, email and social media) and, in particular, Generation Y, who have no brand loyalty and typically take what they want from whoever will provide them with it?
The Beeb’s approach is to make it personal. As well as trying to drive interaction through discussions, debate and opinion sharing it will also provide users with personalised tailored content. This autumn it will launch myBBC service, a personalised app which will tailor content to the preferences of the individual logging in.
Sky News on the other hand, is taking its offering direct to their target audience and has targeted Snapchat as the answer to capturing the attention of the elusive 16-24 year old.
Through the new discover function, Sky News and Sky Sports will feature on the platform, publishing an edition each afternoon with stories specifically created for the app. Five to 10 stories will feature in each daily edition, curated by editors at both companies, with the content disappearing after 24 hours.
What mustn’t be forgotten in this journey to capture the minds of the elusive ‘millennial’ is that there is a place for the more traditional TV news show.
Sky and BBC are still most people’s first port of call when a big news story breaks. Viewing figures for Sky News’ 4:30pm bulletin during the Charlie Hebdo massacre earlier this year were up 918% on its three-month average for that slot. Similarly the audience for the BBC News’ 4pm headlines were up 696%.
If nothing else this shows that politics, foreign affairs and religion are not necessarily something that can be conveyed and understood in isolation through a two-minute piece, let alone a 30-second soundbite or a temporary “snap” of the story.
It will be interesting to see how these developments are received by millennials and whether they can help a new generation appreciate the value of a good old-fashioned news report.