Audiences matter as co-creators, they are not just passive listeners, therefore journalists and media houses have to be more accessible and listen to what their readers want to see. This was one of the key messages that came out from the first session of #JamfestAfrica2021 titled Learnings from audiences during the pandemic.
According to the 2021 Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, overall trust in the media has grown to 44% since the pandemic.
Kenyan journalist and curator for Baraza Media Lab Christine Mungai, who also moderated the conversation, said a dose of humility was needed when thinking about audiences. “The news matters to them, they’re not just blank slates waiting for us to impose what we think the news is… We’re not in this tower, this far-off place where people make decisions about what is important.” Journalists should remember that they are part of the societies which they report about, said Mungai.
Key takeaways shared by guests at this session:
- The Media Hack Collective, which works at the intersection of journalism, data and design launched a coronavirus dashboard and was then able to funnel that data into a newsletter.
- Trust is the biggest lesson from the pandemic. Laura Grant director of Media Hack Collective said they had to be open about who they were, what they were doing and why we were doing it.
- Acknowledge what you do not know. Be open, put your data out there for public scrutiny.
- Make yourselves accessible so that it is easier for people to reach you. Being accessible shows you who your ‘fans’ are and you can then devise content to suit their needs.
- Make something that is useful for people. People are more likely to pay for something they find useful.
- Explain.co.za offers bite-sized summaries of news for busy people. “I started Explain.co.za because I’m passionate about empowering citizens to hold those in power to account,” said Verashni Pillay, founder and MD of the platform.
- Audiences struggle to take in news because of information overload. When Covid broke there was over complexity. Info was poorly broken down and assumed previous knowledge and news were disempowering and discouraging.
- Readers relate to solution-driven news. Note what is going wrong and what is or can be done to fix it. Give context but do not make excuses.
- Study your audience and pitch at content at that level.
- Newsletter subscription numbers should not just be about quantity, but engaged readers.
- There’s a demand for short-form and long-form journalism. The middle (500-word pieces) is falling through.
- Readers want publishers they can trust.
- Being accessible can grow your relationship with your audience. They can offer ideas and help where you need it.
- Don’t fear criticism but rather use it to improve your offering.
- People want information they can easily consume anywhere such as graphics, podcasts, bullet points.
- Readers seek solutions to problems. Summarise the full context and tell your audience what the solution is.
- Break down complex information and do not assume previous knowledge.
- Study your audience and pitch to that level. Give the people what they want.
Have a look at other sessions from Jamfest Africa 2021 here.
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