All Blog Posts By Topic, Journalism, Writing Tips

Staying Relevant to Readers and Advertisers in a Digital Age

Penny Muse Abernathy challenges the roles of conventional newsrooms.

On day two, July 11, 2014, of the AAN Convention, Abernathy, the Knight Chair of Journalism and Digital Media Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (, gave a keynote speech entitled “Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability” to a room full of people passionate about journalism, truth and justice in our communities. She discussed the new responsibilities of journalists and outlined the way publications can remain relevant and profitable in a digital age.

“Newspapers are community builders … giving context to [issues] bubbling just below the surface,” Abernathy said. She presented many details about readers’ and advertisers’ expectations, and how the way people consume the news is changing according to the following emerging expectations.


Hallmarks of a Strong News Organization
1. Set the agenda for public debate
2. Encourage economic growth in your community
3. Foster geographic identity


Readers Expect You (the News Professional) To:

  • Identify main issues
  • Help them navigate life successfully (i.e., how to spend money wisely and how to have fun)
  • Give them a sense of social and political identity

How Readers Consume the News

  • Age 20+: “Graze” over multiple mobile news sites
  • Age 30+: Read digital news (via a mobile device)
  • Age 40+: Read print news and digital news (via the iPad)
  • Age 60+: Read print

How to Keep Readers Engaged

  • Present a online reader survey every six months to find out about readers’ habits
  • Offer content over multiple platforms (print, digital and mobile) to reinforce reader loyalty and reach different types of readers

o   Not all print content belongs in a digital format; some content may need to be revised and shortened for online consumption

  • Loyal readers read print news for long-form journalism and go to the digital realm to dig deeper


Advertisers Expect You To:

  • Help them connect with consumers

How to Keep Advertisers Engaged

  • Offer advertising over multiple platforms (print, digital and mobile)
  • Encourage advertisers to buy both a print a d digital/mobile ad package

o   Digital and print mediums reach 50% more people

  • Have a one-page rate card listing all possible ads and prices
  • Understand that “clicks” do not necessarily mean consumer engagement


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