The New Era of Digital News Consumption

  |  March 22, 2010   |  Comments

The three Cs of digital news, the three Rs, and the three marketing-related digital news considerations.

In today's news marketplace, the average adult faces an overwhelming amount of information. The average city-dwelling adult sees more than 7,000 messages a day, or about 500 messages per waking hour. On a typical day, 46 percent of Americans get their news from four to six media platforms, including local and/or national television stations, radio news, national and/or local newspapers, and online outlets where they view two to five sources, based on recent Pew Research.

The 3 Cs of Digital News

What makes a platform relatively desirable to a news consumer? Here are the three Cs of what they want from news:

  • Customized. It's tailored based on individual needs, interests, location, political views, and other factors.

  • Curated. It's selected by a combination of professional news editors and one's social graph. This serves as a lens for which information is viewed and from what perspective.

  • Contributory. It's enhanced and modified by the addition of opinions and sharing of information through various forms of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and comments).

To deal with this abundance of information, American adults have developed a new set of routines. These habits are important for the marketers who want their message to get though the clutter and be understood.

  • Use a variety of channels. This includes broadcast, print, online, and mobile and information formats (e.g., Web sites, e-mail, RSS, alerts, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs). Further, it's significant to note that as new devices and formats evolve, older ones don't necessarily disappear; rather, they become more targeted and specialized.

  • Gather information based on their own schedule. While activities like commuting provide conducive environments for listening to the radio or reading the newspaper, news collection is no longer a time specific activity with 24 hour news stations and Web sites. It's crucial to note that at least one in three readers, as reported by Pew Research, only scan headlines without clicking through for more information, leaving media companies with limited means to monetize this content.

  • Engage in private and public information sharing. This can be done through social media, commenting on news sites, and personal communications (e.g., e-mail-a-friend). Facebook recently surpassed Google News as a news source, according to Hitwise. Interestingly, Facebook sent relatively more upstream traffic to traditional print media, while Google News sent it to traditional broadcast sources, and Twitter had significantly lower reach.

In today's world, consumers expect that news, at least in a general, widely available format, to be free. There's little loyalty related to news brands because, if payment were required, four out of five adults would change providers.

Further, roughly three out of four adults ignore ads, according to the Pew findings. This has implications for both media executives who need to be compensated for collecting, editing, and distributing the news and marketers who need mass audiences to build their brands and sales.

Achieving Marketing's 3 Rs in the Digital News Era

What does this evolving news environment and its implications mean for marketers? Marketers must develop strategies to accommodate consumers' changing behaviors to achieve their three basic business goals:

  • Expand reach. To leverage third-party media companies' ability to aggregate mass audiences, marketers should:
    • Build fans and followers on relevant social media sites (e.g., Facebook and Twitter).

    • Use social media press releases that engage a broad cross section of media reporters and act as media to attract press and prospects.

    • Develop different forms of advertising that break through the clutter to attract prospects.
  • Extend relationships. Because repeat sales are more cost effective, it's critical to keep enhancing customer connections. To achieve this, marketers must engage with prospects and customers to help them meet their needs.
    • Curate relevant information on your Web site, blog, and relevant social media.

    • Be available to engage with prospects and customers across a range of online and offline channels.
  • Enhance reputation. To build trust and brands, marketers must get endorsements from outside sources.
    • Develop online opinion leaders through participation in the social media ecosystem.

    • Participate in the conversation across various social media environments.

    • Get press mentions.

3 Marketing-Related Digital News Considerations

While implementing these strategies, marketers must also incorporate the following three tactics:

  • Manage news-related information to take advantage of opportunities. This is across subject matter, devices, and platforms related to your products. Based on Pew Research findings, the areas where consumers actively seek more news and information are science, religion and spirituality, health and medicine, state government, local community, and neighborhood news.

  • Make content search-friendly. Develop a keyword strategy related to your product offering and make sure to use these words in your various content-related communications. To this end, it's critical to monitor your firm's improvement in search optimization.

  • Measure the impact of news-related marketing tactics. Among the factors to assess are: the number of new prospects you have attracted, the number of fans or advocates, the number of media mentions (both positive and negative), brand favorability and improvement, increased sales, and cost changes.

Remember, consumer behavior is at the heart of every marketing plan. As a result, changes to customers' news consumption can have a significant impact on how your marketing message is delivered and whether it receives any attention. Therefore, it's critical to adapt your marketing to accommodate these evolving consumer habits!

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Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital,, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog,, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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