Journalists are faced with new challenges each year as the media landscape continues its evolution into a digital ecosystem of competing platforms and outlets. Add a global pandemic into the mix and the pace of evolution has skyrocketed.
In the first stages of the pandemic, consumers of news leaned in hard to the sources they knew and trusted for vital updates and information. March audience data revealled a sharp rise in traditional media subscriptions and viewership figures.
For example, The Guardian Australia recorded its highest-ever traffic, ABC reached the 15 million unique users mark, The Australian doubled its audience, Sydney Morning Herald’s audience jumped by 66 per cent and The Age, nine.com.au and Daily Mail Australia all came close to doubling their February audience numbers.
COVID-19 related live blogs across The Australian Financial Review continue to record historic traffic numbers, and the Herald and Age’s ‘explainer’ stories have become some of their most read articles of all time.
Our thirst for news has been reinvigorated by the pandemic and media are under intense pressure to deliver accurate, responsible and balanced content.
To understand how the pandemic is affecting newsrooms and those on the media frontline, IMPACT attended a PRIA webinar with editors from The Australian Financial Review, Nova FM and The Today Show to get a clear understanding of what content will achieve cut through in these extraordinary times.
Despite the uptick in news consumption, COVID-19 news fatigue has well and truly set in with more than two-thirds of Australians (71 per cent) stating that they now avoid news on the topic. This figure is 9 per cent higher than our usual rate of avoidance, according to the Digital News Report Australia 2019.
It’s not just consumers who are tired of COVID-19 news, the media who produce it are also keen for a pause on pandemic-related content.
Journalists delivering public service broadcasting have been identified as key workers along with health workers and those providing essential public services. Many feel under enormous pressure to make sure that the public is getting the right information about the outbreak while others are turning their gaze to what the future holds.
According to the PRIA panel, the next wave of COVID-19 stories will focus on recovery and post-pandemic life.
With normal TV program formats affected by social distancing requirements, getting content to air has been down to hosts and camera crew only.
COVID-19 has made it common practice for global stars and experts to dial in for interviews via Skype, Facetime or Zoom. For producers, the benefit of this new world of media is having a much larger talent pool to choose from.
Expect to see more of this happening post COVID-19.
The importance of urgency
Time moves faster than ever as the ‘latest’ updates on COVID-19 are quickly superseded. For journalists, editors and producers it can feel like they’re constantly chasing their tail.
Stories that previously would have taken two weeks to pitch can be booked in 3-4 days. Journalists have a heightened sense of mission and whether their story can help keep people safe, help them work more efficiently or simply make the new realities of life easier to handle.
It’s crucial to be quick, agile and transparent with the media on what you have to offer them. In a time of crisis, journalists don’t have time to analyse and research all the pitches they’re receiving. Story angles must fit within the current climate and must serve a purpose; to educate, inspire or inform, and not ‘sell’.