Fake news always seems to be in the news these days.
Media companies are working themselves into a frenzy wondering why so many disaffected readers have turned towards click-baity headlines and conspiracy- monging websites, instead of opting for their own tried and true content.
So, how can a website hold onto an increasingly divided audience when there are so many other – more ideologically tailored — options to choose from?
I think the answer is simple. Mainstream news outlets have done enough solid reporting throughout the presidential campaign to earn the trust of the broader American electorate. But the content needs to be placed in front of the right pair of eyes.
If The Washington Post wants more Trump supporters to visit its website, it should place its vigorous reporting on the failings of Hillary Clinton as a candidate front and center when they visit the website.
If it wants liberals to remain loyal readers, it should send them constant updates on its investigations into Trump’s nonprofit organization and controversial past.
By clustering their audience in a clever way, media companies can hold onto their readership – and even grow it. Even in these contentious times.
And media consumers are rarely uni-dimensional. Once they’re in, they will move beyond the content that drew them in. They will check out other verticals. (Cat videos, perhaps). And eventually, they will warm up to the stories that contradict their world view.
It’s more important than ever for media companies to place an emphasis on targeting readers with the right content.
This should begin with the use of sophisticated tools like behavioral analytics, which allows websites to cluster visitors based on how they act, what they read, how much time they spend on each story, do they read the entire story or skip to the end, do they watch the embedded video, do they watch the entire advertisement or skip etc. rather than the demographic category they belong to. Knowing these behaviors and more will help companies in the business of content to personalize and monetize their content by serving them advertisements that are relevant to their behavior.
Netflix did this brilliantly, and guess what happened? They are no longer remembered for their “Be Kind, Rewind” days. They rose overnight to become one of the preeminent media companies of our day. Youtube gives you video recommendations without you even knowing that they are recommendation.
It’s time for newspapers and other traditional media companies to shed their old ways. Once we get people on both sides of the political divide to trust real news, then we will start having constructive debates over the future of our country.