The secret to success for news publishers lies in exemplary reporting

I am a voracious consumer of news. As a journalist, I follow the activity of professional news organizations and the journalists that comprise them. I track the thoughts and actions of politicians and business leaders through their social media profiles. And I even keep up with developments and debates in the media industry.

But I have a problem: my news consumption, while frequent, is far from sufficient.

It took an exercise of self-reflection to reveal this problem. For 48 hours, I tracked my media habits. Every time I opened Twitter, went to a website or tapped a link on Facebook, I recorded my activity.

I found that I consume almost all of my news natively on social media and occasionally through email newsletters. Rarely do I click on links to articles and videos, opting instead for fulfilling my needs with 140-characters of social text and a headline.

In the 48-hour period I recorded, I never once used my computer, a television or a newspaper to find and consume news, but opted instead for mobile platforms. Finally, I noticed I sometimes share media content I have not fully read or even engaged with at all (admittedly, this is my most shameful ritual).

As I discovered, I am guilty of the same millennial news consumption habits that challenge my industry. A recent study by Pew Research Center shows in 2016, 62% of U.S. adults say they get news from social media. Another report by Pew suggests that 72% of Americans get news from a mobile device.

I, and 62% of American adults, have reasoned that the content found on social media provides a baseline understanding of the news of the day. Simply by scrolling through social feeds, I stay in-the-know. With so many people consuming news this way, monetization opportunities dwindle for publishers.

To combat this problem, journalists must understand what compels an audience to engage with content beyond what they find on social media. By reflecting on my recorded habits, I noticed I tend to tap on stories I not only find interesting, but also assume will provide me with an angle or perspective I have not encountered prior.

Thus, it is critical for news outlets to produce content that adds new, interesting ideas to public discourse. Media will be most successful — both in audience engagement and monetization — when it questions authority, presents new perspectives or otherwise challenges the norm.

Naturally, producing higher-caliber content comes at a cost. Stories exceeding typical standards often require time, money and re-allocating of personnel from daily news production. In a time when newsroom resources are scarce, this is not often easily attainable.

Still, publishers must find a balance. Supplying easy-to-consume news content hosted natively on social media remains an essential aspect of keeping an audience informed and engaged; however, monetization opportunities lie in deeper audience engagement than a commitment to 140-characters. Should media leaders spare the expense of deeper, inquisitive, quality storytelling, they will surely reap the benefits of a more invested audience.