— By Mary-Katharine Phillips, media innovation analyst at Twipe

Chapter two

Reinventing Digital Editions: Reader Insights

Last year Twipe launched the research series ‘Reinventing Digital Editions’ as part of our research on successful digital publishing strategies. In our first chapter of this research, we examined the rising trend of digital-only editions — newspapers that are digital-only but still in the edition format . In our report, we looked at examples such as La Matinale from Le Monde, Espresso from The Economist, and L’édition du Soir from Ouest-France. Together with the Global Editors Network, we also published an article on our findings, highlighting why these new digital products had been created and what had been crucial for their success.

After sharing the findings of this report, many questions on the readers of these digital products surfaced — who are they and why do they prefer to read in the edition format? That’s why Twipe focused on the readers of digital news in our latest research; we surveyed 4,000 news consumers across Europe, and the United States. In this article some of the main conclusions drawn from these surveys will be discussed. The full report can be accessed here.

Two digital news formats are discussed in this article; ‘Editions’, a daily bundled package of content, with a clear beginning and end, and ‘Newsflow’, a continuously updated stream of information throughout the day.

From the findings presented in this article, publishers get a better understanding of the news habits of their readers, their attitudes toward paying for online content, and their format preferences. This understanding can help direct strategies for 2019 and beyond in the digital age.

News habits and attitudes to paying

It comes as no surprise; the largest reason people give as for why they have not paid for digital news is the abundance of free content online.

The United Kingdom and the United States stand out for the amount of people who say their lack of trust in news is why they have not paid — 12.5% and 17.5% respectively.

TV is still main medium for news consumption, except for younger audiences where social media prevails

How people consume news is where the biggest differences between age groups was seen. Television remains the most popular way to consume news for people 35 and over, while social media is how the younger generation more commonly consumes news today.

Many differences for news consumption habits within countries are shown as well, the main points that stand out are:

  • Higher newsletter adoption in Belgium (33.9%) and Germany (38.5%)
  • Lower social media usage in France (11.5%)
  • Social media as main medium of news in the US (66.4%) and in the UK (70.3%)

Daily briefers are the largest reader group

In our research at Twipe we often refer to Reuters Digital Institute’s segmentation of digital news readers based on their level of interest in news and frequency of access.

Through our survey, we were able to reconfirm their finding that the largest group of news consumers are daily briefers, those who have a medium to high interest in news and prefer to be briefed one to five times a day.

In 2016, Reuters found that 44% of readers could be classified as daily briefers — today we find 63.2% are now daily briefers.

News format preferences

We asked respondents how they feel about the two most common digital news formats, editions and newsflow:

  • Edition: a daily bundled package of content, with a clear beginning and end
  • Newsflow: continuously updating stream of information throughout the day

Below we have our findings on news format preferences, country and age split, and reader personas for each format.

Even split on news format preferences

We found a roughly even split amongst readers who prefer to consume news in the newsflow format (51%) and in the edition format (49%).

Editions correspond to fundamentally different reader behaviors and needs. Readers of editions are typically busier people who prefer to take time once a day to go through a bundled package of the overall news. When deciding on a news source, they prioritize editorial selection and finishability. They look less for free content online and are more loyal to their preferred news brand, usually reading just one news source in a week.

On the other hand, newsflow readers check the news more frequently, many check more than ten times a day. They read for shorter sessions, usually just five to ten minutes at a time. Newsflow readers access many more sources of news in a week and they are more price-sensitive when it comes for paying for digital news.

The first time I thought about paying to access online news wasn’t on the basis of any conviction, but because more frequently I bumped into a paywall. I couldn’t read this or that article without having to pay or because I had reached the free articles quota for the month.

— Francisco (27, Spain), Newsflow reader

News format preferences common across countries

In the seven countries that we studied, this even split on newsflow versus edition preferences held true as well.

Preference for the edition format, by country.

We found that Spain, Switzerland, and France all have a very close to even split amongst reader preferences for newsflow versus edition formats. The US, the UK, and Belgium have a slightly higher preference for the edition format, while Germany has the highest preference, with 65.4% of all readers preferring editions.

This finding is interesting because it shows that the edition format preference is not isolated to specific countries, but truly found on a widescale in Europe and the United States.

It is easier to absorb if it’s taken as one ‘hit’ of news, rather than dribs & drabs….unless it’s breaking news about something important. I find the constant barrage of exactly the same information counterproductive. Once I’ve heard it, that’s it, I want to get on with what I’m doing. Then, a few times a day, I will tune in to a news report, or skim the internet to see if there is anything new.

— Sharon (58, UK), Edition reader

Even split on news format preferences within age groups

Perhaps one of the most eye-opening findings from our research is that the even preference for editions holds true across age groups. This disproves the myth in the news industry that the edition format is preferred only in an older age group.

I receive by email the headlines and info ‘flash’. Depending on the titles, I open the mail or not. At noon, I consult one site or the other while eating. I do not read a lot of content, just a few articles and most often to pass the time.

— Camila (36, Belgium), Newsflow reader

Twipe is a digital publishing solutions company helping publishers engage more readers and monetise premium content on mobile devices.

Since 2011, the Twipe team have led numerous research projects on digital editions and how to optimise them for reader behavior. Through research and collaboration with publishers, they work on finding the best ways to translate elements such editorial selection, hierarchy, satisfaction of completion, and habit formation into a new edition format — to truly reinvent digital editions.

You can subscribe to their weekly newsletter Twipe Insights.

Disclosure: Twipe is a media partner of the Global Editors Network’s flagship annual conference, the GEN Summit.

Global Editors Network

The Global Editors Network (GEN) is the worldwide association of editors-in-chief founded in 2011.

Global Editors Network

Written by

The Global Editors Network is the worldwide association of editors-in-chief and media executives. We foster media innovation and sustainable journalism.

Global Editors Network

The Global Editors Network (GEN) is the worldwide association of editors-in-chief founded in 2011.

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