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Quality News is a Hot Commodity – Served at a Price

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At SMWNYC, Meredith Kopit Levien, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The New York Times and CNN’s Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter discussed why great journalism matters.

We are living in chaotic and unpredictable times.

The White House is in disarray, North Korea is denuclearizing, and a cold-case that haunted California for three decades has come to an end. Not to mention the reporting on Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and most recently, Bill Cosby that have provided justice to scores of women. The #MeToo movement would not have been possible without the work and determination of journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who recently earned The New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP and COO, The New York Times addressed the rise of quality journalism and why it is worth paying for in this fraught era of “fake news” for audiences at an SMW NYC main stage presentation called “Why the Truth is Worth Paying For,” moderated by Brian Stelter, Senior Media Correspondent and Host of CNN’s Reliable Sources.

Here are a few pieces of insight from Meredith for any reporter or brand marketer to remember when thinking about content development.

People want quality not quantity when it comes to news

“Quality news is hot,” Meredith boldly stated this morning and she’s right. We are in a divisive political climate, one that has people at each other’s throats. Meredith also noted that people are spending more time engaging with news than ever before. They are hungry for quality journalism that sheds light on important issues affecting their lives.

For anyone producing content, it is imperative to be telling stories that matter to readers. If you want people to pay for content you have to make the investment in quality journalists willing to dig deep for powerful stories. The #MeToo movement is in large thanks to the journalists who went out on the line to speak with victims, be thorough in investigating leads and tell the right story. If readers want the real story there has to be investment back in the newsroom. By supporting our journalists and newsroom, subscribers are helping to maintain a free press.

Validating the newsroom

In Meredith’s opinion, “the antidote for free press is to make the public more aware and get them involved with journalism.” Therein lies an educational opportunity for reporters to showcase their skill in developing stories.

Work with podcasts or radio – allow readers behind the scene to see how and understand how news is made. This can be effective in proving the validity of the newsroom and discredits those claiming “fake news.” These might seem like harmless claims but can put journalists out in the field in danger and make them more vulnerable to threats.

The ambition of the newsroom is growing

The modern newsroom has become more digital thanks to the emergence of platforms like Netflix and Spotify. As Meredith pointed out, “the world is complicated and interesting…and there are so many stories to tell and so much more work in journalism to do.” The Times alone has 3.5 million subscribers, 1.5 million of which are digital only. This leaves journalists thinking about how they can report differently to reach these audiences who they know are consuming content online.

Meredith points out this is precisely why we have seen the evolution of podcasts, like The Daily, take over the charts. Podcasts and other digital platforms bring new information to audiences in new ways. Audiences can consume while working out or preparing breakfast in the morning – it is quality news delivered in engaging ways that pushes subscribers to engage and explore.

There is no end to the amount of news that will continue to rain down on us. Without quality, journalists to filter out and investigate the truth readers will be suspect about investing in news. Quality reporting from the journalists themselves is paramount in attracting paying subscribers and diversifying the newsroom will help in keeping them engaged.

This is an exciting time to be in the news business and the future will tell how readers will consume in the future.

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