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COVID put mainstream news outlets “firmly back on the agenda” for them to “capitalize on this moment”

Fear sells.
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“Newsbrands” (a term made up to rebrand the word “news outlets”) are increasingly treated as less as platforms to gather and disseminate news, and more as platforms for publishers to sell advertisements, and crucially, compete for those ad dollars with the overwhelming force of online competitors.

Some, like PHD Media’s UK publishing director Demi Abiola see this as a particularly opportune time to achieve that, since advertisers, forever seeking better assurances of “brand safety” now appear extra reluctant to spend, in a climate rife with warnings of “online coronavirus disinformation.”

Abiola’s advice looks to be to “capitalize” on advertisers’ priorities to secure “clean” content that will conform to such buzzwords as reliability and careful curation.

“It’s vitally important for newsbrands… [to] capitalize on this moment because with this acute focus on brand safety and environment we really need to be talking about… in the overall media mix, why they’re so important,” Abiola said.

But underlying this argument is also a desire to capitalize on the very perception of “newsbrands,” justified or otherwise, as somehow rooted in real journalism, providing trust and transparency to audiences worn out by multi-month pitched battles around Covid, and (dis)information.

Proof that publishers have a lot to look forward to from the crippling pandemic is found in a survey, “Newsworks’ World Without News.” And it found that in the UK, 77 percent of people under 36 said that their appreciation of what’s described as “journalism” increased with the advent of the disease.

Without going into what journalism is, and why it would be more likely to be found in “newsbrands” than in other, including new, online media, the study revealed that 70 percent of respondents think democracy would suffer without journalism.

But it seems that the focus of the panel discussion dedicated to the survey was to find ways to position these more traditional and in slow-moving sources of information as desirable partners to advertisers. Whether true or not, to this end the focus should be on “context and fairness” while at the same time disassociating themselves from “all of this disinformation that’s happening on other media platforms.”

None of these claims – positive and negative alike – are anything easy to provide metrics for, but the core idea is basically to advertise “newsbrands” to advertisers – and in this way give a struggling industry a new lease on life.

Apple News and Google News are both said to be helping out by promoting this content over that from “other media platforms.”

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