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[Column] Tini Sevak: Trust, reliability and relevance are at the heart of today’s news consumers

Marketing has existed for as long as people have had something to sell, but the modern era - with the advent of traditional and then digital media - has transformed consumers’ relationships with products.

Looking back, the birth of outbound marketing in the early 20th century created a period of mass production and inefficiency as advertising spoke AT consumers rather than WITH them. In the 1950-1960s, the marketplace became saturated and as a result there was intense competition for customers.

This saw a shift in the role of marketing into a strategic lever to inform what should be produced and at the same time the beginning of market research to understand not only what consumers wanted to buy but how brands could meet those needs.

As with many industries, the emergence of the internet changed everything and, in the 2000s post the dot com bubble, we entered the era of inbound marketing and media which demanded the consumers to be placed at the heart of campaigns and companies’ strategies. 

With consumers now having more choice, power and information they are making faster, more connected decisions about spending and media consumption. The pace continues to accelerate as consumers use more mobile technology than ever before.

However, while brands and media owners embrace the new, we must remember that data and technology has changed HOW we do what we do as an industry, but not fundamentally WHAT we do.

Brands are expected to use technology to make things faster, easier, more productive and at the same time ensure the audience feels part of something meaningful and culturally significant.  It is vital for brands today to make experiences “personal” to audiences and to deliver them at the moments when they are going to resonate the most. 

Changing audience media consumption behaviours

This transformation in marketing and consumer expectation must be viewed in the context of how media has developed and evolved. In the last five years,  people spent on average over 11 hours a day consuming media in some form across platforms; marking a 10% increase in consumption vs 2012.

TV continues to remain important but we are seeing a shift in people spending more time online. Time spent on mobile five years ago was roughly one hour 15 minutes per day, now it’s over three hours 15 minutes.

These changes in consumer behaviour have also affected how people find their news, with smartphones becoming the primary device for news consumption. The starting point for news for international audiences is generally websites/apps followed by social media and search engines. However national TV and dedicated TV news channels still play a critical role in following the story. Driven by concerns of misinformation, in 2019 we are also starting to see people spend less time on social media, specifically Facebook, for news. 

All this insight speaks to the rapid change of the ‘news cycle’ but also the need for brands and publishers to focus on providing audiences with content that matters to them.

What does this mean for news and media brands?

The increase in technology, data and connectivity has resulted in audiences having higher expectations and lower attentions spans when it comes to content. The various studies available and our own research show this is driven by three points: 

Trust, reliability and relevance are the three fundamental pillars underpinning every one of the points above.  

Looking more deeply at a bespoke brand perception study we conducted earlier this year across 12 markets, we found 55% of respondents rated CNN as trustworthy and reliable, 4.6 times higher than the average. Amongst those who watch CNN on a weekly basis our scores increase to 72%. The important point to take from this is that trust translates into loyalty, and vice versa.

Linked directly to this need for trust is an appetite for enterprising and informed journalism. Our research supports this, with audiences telling us that they most value journalists who display ‘depth of knowledge and passion’, ability and drive for the truth, and a willingness to go to wherever the heart of the story is to report the facts first-hand. Audiences say that they come to CNN for the following reasons:

•  Build credibility and favourability through accuracy and trust – being responsible not just with audience’s data but in the calibre of the content delivered to them

•  Have a deep and enriched knowledge of audiences – understanding and treating them as people with real life interests and behaviours, not proxies defined by general demographics

•  Provide audiences with relevant and meaningful content – identifying the key moments when content is going to resonate the most

Truly understanding audiences

While this insight shows us what audiences want, we need to dig deeper to truly understand their behaviour. Thankfully, the challenge of media fragmentation has provided the boon of knowing audiences with more depth and breadth than ever before due to improved digital, data and technology.

This depth is about going beyond just connecting with a viewer to actually building tangible experiences, which in turn requires shifting from traditional approaches to consumer marketing towards a truly integrated cross-platform strategy.

It is therefore importatnt for us to use everything from global surveys, digital analytics tools, social listening platforms, emotional measurement solutions and our first party data to understand our audiences as people not proxies.

As someone who has worked in data and analytics for two decades, I can speak from personal experience that this requires a shift of mind-set from categorising an audience in a homogenous term such as ‘affluent’ to truly understanding them as, say, a working parent who travels for work and leisure, likes sport and has interest in topics such as xy and z.

Only with such a customer view can we demonstrate an understanding of what our audiences care about, and in the process learn about the key moments that matter to them to determine when our content will be the most pertinent and appropriate.

This isn’t purely parochial either. Everyone can win - not just the news brand - from having an appreciation of the need for relevant, trusted and reliable content. Advertisers and audiences have just as much to gain from creating deeper experiences because consumers expect a two-way relationship with brands and furthermore expect experiences to be consistent across all touch points of their journey.

Listening to consumers, understanding their behaviour, interacting with them and responding to their wants and needs is the only way this is achieved.

Tini Sevak is the Vice President, Audiences & Data, at CNN International Commercial


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