How journalism is changing course in 2016

Have you noticed the changes in the journalism industry? The role of the journalist has evolved in recent years with fewer newsrooms requiring more content. We sat down the Jason Whittaker of The Mandarin to talk about his career in journalism and how he sees the industry evolving in the future. 

Rakhal Ebeli: What would you say is where you’re hitting the sweet spot in 2016?

Jason Whittaker: In terms of our publication?

Rakhal: Yeah, where you’re finding the best engagement, different content types, different channels. Where would you say is your nice balance?

Jason: Yeah, sure. In terms of The Mandarin, the tried and true email has been our best friend and building up a really good EDM database. The bulk of our traffic every day is coming through a daily newsletter that we’re sending to that database, so that’s been the boon for us. This particular audience, public servants, are certainly not as social media savvy as some other audiences, so we found it a little harder on those platforms, although there’s certainly a different type of audience that we’re attracting through those platforms, but email, email still works. It works for all of our products here, and it’s really key to what we do.

Rakhal: How do you go about understanding what that audience is looking for? Are you creating short form, long form content? Is there something that you’re getting in terms of your analytics that are saying, “Audiences are now time poor and not being able to absorb the long form stuff,” or have you got a time and a place for everything still?

Jason: Yeah, I mean that’s always the balance, and I think, my personal view is you obviously want to be all over analytics, but at the same time, not be driven by it necessarily. What I think the audience wants is a package of content. We could serve up 300-word news stories every day that we know does the business in terms of traffic, but that’s not a great product at the end of the day. I think there’ll be readers that want something deeper and richer, so it has to be a mix of breaking news at 300 words, and deeper analysis, and features, and profiles at 1000 words, 2000 words.

I think getting the mix of that right is the most important thing. taking note of analytics, taking note of where the audience is coming from and what they’re going to, but having a hunch about what the core readership wants, even if it’s not necessarily your top story of the day, and trying to deliver that. My old boss always used to say that journalism is about giving them what they want, and just a little bit of what they need, the idea of feeding them vegetables as well as the meat. I think that’s pretty important, wherever you are in publishing.