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A study about the future of journalism

February 18, 2017

Robert Beatus

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Introducing the voice of the consumer

The major media players in Sweden have developed the prerequisites for the future of journalism. As a result, nine focus areas are identified of which lead to research projects at Stockholm School of Economics (HHS).

Shown in the media:

Dagens Nyheter 1

Dagens Nyheter 2


Dagens Media

Nepa conducted a study of the future of journalism where different data sources combine.

The basis of the analysis has been on consumers´ actual behavior within the largest news sites in Sweden as well as their inner motivations to news consumption. In addition, these studies were based on editorial content; unlike most other panel studies based on the ad business.

The analysis is based on digital behavior of 38,000 unique individuals. Specifically, these individuals are from Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Svenska Dagbladet, Sveriges Radio, Sveriges Television, and Upsala Nya Tidning; in other words, Sweden’s largest news sites.

The digital footprint was supplemented with survey studies with 4,000 participants. Specifically, they were interviewed about six topics; media attitudes, news consumption, privacy, sharing behavior in social media, news commitment, and quality associations.

The nationally representative sample were aged from 15-74 years old and were drawn from the Nepa panels. These panels are consisting of approximately 350,000 consumers in Sweden.

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The research projects will continuously measure behavior given the new realities of the outside world

Nepa introduced the voice of the consumer in the discussion on the basis of six consumer-related focus areas. These include:

  • News consumption in different segments
    • What are the different target segments?
    • Where do they consume the news today and what motivates them?
    • What are the needs of news and news formats they have today?
  • Viral behavior
    • What content can be shared with others?
    • What drives sharing in social media?
    • How is the shared content be perceived?
  • Commitment
    • What kind of commitment is there?
    • What drives commitment?
  • Quality associations digital media
    • What quality associations create a will to pay high perceived value in journalism?
  • The future news format
    • What are the future consumer needs of news and news formats?
  • Personal integrity
    • How does the perception of integrity differ among different segments of the target audience?
    • How does the need for integrity change over time?
    • In what way do different media brands affect consumers’ attitude?
    • How much information will different target groups want to share in the future? What will be their counterclaims?

Summary of the study

The market for news consumption is traditionally based on age, gender, or lifestyle. Therefore, by using consumers’ actual behavior and underlying driving forces, new segments for news consumption can be identified.

The new segments reveal three different groups whose needs are not being addressed today by traditional media. The three new segments satisfy their needs digitally with new types of media formats. In addition, these segments represent approximately 50% of the Swedish population.

However, the segments have different reasons for being active on social media. Some segments are using social media to influence the opinions of others. This is opposed to others whom use social media to enhance the image of themselves in their own network.

Furthermore, the study shows that there is a no one single way to attract the groups that are currently not addressed by traditional media. For example, there are consumers who question the independence of traditional media. While other consumers question the ability to focus on personalized and interactive content. Additionally, there are also consumers looking for more depth and context. Therefore, all these consumers feel that they can’t find this in traditional media.

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New consumer segments

The market for news consumption traditionally has been segmented based on age, gender or lifestyle. However, this may be because of the advertising market’s way of dividing consumers based on communicative audiences.

Therefore, to find new insights about consumers’ news consumption, the basis for segmentation focuses on the attitude and the drive of news consumption. Additionally, there is also a focus on the actual behavior of the news sites.

Six different segments identified are:

The Enthusiastic 15%

  • Large news commitment
  • Consumes news in all channels but prefers analog channels

The Traditional 13%

  • Has a high commitment to innovation and community
  • Consumes mainly traditional media in the analog channels

The Dutiful 18%

  • Consumes news because they feel they have to keep up
  • Appreciates objectivity

The Following 13%

  • Has a high commitment to news
  • Inspired by news
  • Follows others on social forums in search of news

The Social 20%

  • Is the least present on digital services of traditional media
  • Socially driven in their news consumption
  • Inspired by news

The Distrust 21%

  • Is less present at digital services of traditional media
  • Socially driven in their news consumption
  • Distrusts traditional media
  • Appreciates objectivity

News consumption among segments

Within three of the segments, traditional media has a specific challenge; the Social, the Following and the Distrust. These segments together constitute to 50% of the Swedish population. In addition, this specific population satisfies their needs more and more just by the use of digital media alternatives and new types of formats. Therefore, the population uses the traditional news sites less. However, this is because of the result of links from search engines or social media.

There are also interesting differences in how social media is being used between the segments that traditional media finds difficult to reach. These include:

  • The Social gladly share news in social media to build and maintain relationships. Therefore, strengthening their own brand by appearing intelligent.
  • The Following consume a lot of news digitally, much like the Social. However, they are not sharing news as much as them.
  • The Distrust are happy to share news in social media. However, it is mainly to show their position or convince others of their opinion.

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Perceived value for the quality associations

The study shows that there are multiple ways to attract the groups that are currently not addressed by traditional media. The three most traditional segments appreciates three things the most; the depth of sources, the engagement of opinion-journalism, and having more context than the other. This is something that the segments feel they get today.

Therefore, in order to attract the three segments, traditional media needs enhancements of characteristics within the following areas:

  • The Distrust – “exclusiveness and context”, “depth of sources and references”, and “professional journalists/co-workers”
  • The Social –  “exclusiveness and personalized content,” “content via audio and video”, and “useful in everyday life and work”
  • The Following – “supplementary content services and benefits” and “depth and context”

Thomas Berthelsen
Head of R&D at Nepa