News must be compelling to attract readers back for more
Raju Narisetti, the senior vice president for News Corporation, has ample experience handling and producing digital content in an era defined by rising demand for such media.
He previously worked at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as deputy managing editor and as managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.
In an email interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, he defined one of the biggest advantages the WSJ has over other competitors in the industry as it has an “unwillingness to give away our journalism for free on digital platforms.”
He added that its in-depth, high quality stories “help advertisers reach a quality and often high-spending audience.”
Q. What advantages do business outlets like the Wall Street Journal have in transitioning into a digital operation, both in terms of content as well as in advertising and marketing?
A. One of our biggest advantages has been the unwillingness to give away our journalism for free on digital platforms. WSJ.com, for instance, has always been viewed as yet another way for our customers to consume the high-quality WSJ journalism so we have always charged for that delivery since the beginning of the web. This has meant that we, unlike many newspapers, didn’t have to try and convince our audience why quality journalism on digital platforms needs to be paid for. We also have a very defined and “high value” audience digitally, much like we do in print, and having strong relationships with them allows us to help advertisers reach a quality, and often high-spending audience, much more effectively.
There are multitudes of business media outlets in the world right now, both traditional like the WSJ and newer ones like Business Insider and Quartz. What sets the WSJ apart from other business media? Through what strategy has the WSJ been able to attain that advantage?
A history of trusted, relevant and accurate business news journalism, which remains independent of any agenda. A 1,700+ news team that spans the globe and produces compelling and engaging journalism in multiple platforms. A strong data-orientation both in our journalism and our audience metrics. And a clear willingness to put accuracy over speed.
Would a general paper such as the JoongAng Ilbo be better off strengthening business news? Would that help in terms of formulating a digital-first strategy?
While it is dangerous to be prescriptive from a distance, business news is core to any major metropolitan newspaper and strong coverage of business issues in this interconnected world we live in can be a competitive advantage. It is important to make this decision outside in - as in figuring out what your local audience needs and wants - than arbitrarily deciding to deepen coverage in one area. I would also encourage figuring out what your business news team can do best, and what can come from partners, so you are doubling down on core competency.
Some argue that business media tends to blur the boundary between news and advertisements, especially in the digital age, damaging editorial independence. What would you say to that? What strategy or philosophy do you have in this regard?
It is difficult to generalize and I am not sure if business media is more prone to such blurring than say sports or entertainment media. Because businesses, as advertisers, have significant clout, it is possible in some newspapers that don’t have adequate editorial standards or controls to face pressure from businesses to cover them in a certain, often positive, way.
This is a particular problem in countries such as India, for example, where media companies often take stakes in start-ups, which they also cover through their business news brands without adequate disclosures. What is important is to have clear and inviolable standards, such as those at the WSJ.
Readers or Internet users in Korea are not used to paying for online news content. They are so used to reading news for free through a local equivalent of Google. What advice would you give publishers in Korea that are attempting to set up a paid-wall, freemium model or otherwise monetize?
No readers anywhere are used to paying for news. That was the case when the WSJ started some two decades ago and that was the case when the New York Times started five years ago. And that remains the case today. Paywalls can and do work - some 500+ newspapers in the U.S. alone are now charging, but they are not going to solve the existential challenges of the news business. Our industry was always built on at least two sources of revenue - advertisers and readers - and there is no reason why we can’t continue with that business model. Of course, for it to really work, we need to not only have quality journalism that is also unique, as well as create compelling experiences with that news for readers. I prefer the subscription model than the metered model because you have better control over our business model.
Quality journalism is hard to sell. People flock to sensational news. How do you maximize your readership with quality journalism, other than making your site more attractive or using more info-graphics and video?
I am not sure I subscribe to the notion that in the digital era, somehow, quality journalism is more difficult to sell than it was in the analog world. I also think that it is important to think of engaging experiences than in terms of quality or lack thereof. As in, if the experience of “consuming” the news is interesting, engaging and useful, audiences will come back for more.
What is your own mobile and video strategy?
For starters it is the idea of WSJ Everywhere, as in our subscribers should be able to access the brand where they want it and when they want it, and that experience has to be consistent. We are also creating new mobile formats such as the What’s News app that is specifically designed for a quick mobile reading experience. In video, we have embraced user-generated content that is verified and licensed through our Storyful brand.
BY PARK SUNG-WOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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