News Corp sees Instagram as threat in fight for consumer eyes

How to win readers that 'automatically default into free'

News Corp believes it can monetize content and beat free alternative sources by providing easy-to-access and in-depth content, according to Darren Stein, general manager of insights, analytics and planning for News Corp Australia.

News Corp said in a recent filing at the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it experienced a 22 per cent decline in Australian newspaper revenues between July and September.

The company is up against both free user-generated content and free ad-funded content, Stein said in remarks to the ADMA Engage conference in Sydney on 12 November. “The challenge for us is that the brands [that are free] are huge global brands that everyone is familiar with,” he said.

Those brands include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. “You have to be so differentiated now… It’s a much tougher challenge than it’s ever been before,” he commented.

Instagram is especially a threat because, unlike with a tweet or other Facebook update, users are much less likely to verify a photograph’s truth by checking a news website, Stein said.

“If you see a photo, it has to be true,” he said. “That could be a risk factor if we don’t get our act together in that space.”

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Also, Stein referred to what he called the ‘WTF dilemma’, in which 18 to 34 year-old consumers are the most likely to pay for online content, but also the most likely to expect everything online to be free.

“No matter how good your offer is, they will automatically default into free,” he claimed.

That’s not to say people won’t pay for content ever, however. People will pay if content is always up to date and available, wherever and whenever they want it, he said. Also, they will pay if the content provides depth for when the consumer wants more information, and if the content is easy to access and find.

By monitoring consumer behaviour and understanding how they get the news, it is possible to trigger targeted content that is more likely to be relevant to the user, he said.

News Corp is still in the middle of a journey to better understand its market and the consumer experience, Stein said. “I don’t want anyone to think today that News has got it cracked.

“We now know more than ever before about the consumers of our products.” News Corp started from a “low base, but we’re not on a low base anymore,” he said.

One major trend News is watching is the explosion of connected devices, especially mobile ones, Stein said. By 2014, the number of networked devices will be double the global population, he said, citing a statistic from Intel.

In addition, video is the most popular kind of content, and “everyone is a content creator”, he said.

Adam Good, Telstra Media director of digital media and content, said in separate remarks that Telstra is focused on the multi-screen experience. He cited the four main screens as the smartphone, tablet, TV and PC/laptop, which together they represent 90 per cent of all media interactions. The remaining 10 per cent include radio, newspaper and magazines.

“You do have to think mobile first,” said Good. “It is the device that is on us all the time.”

While most people always carry their smartphone and always have it switched on, only about a quarter of tablet owners carry their tablet at all times of the day, he said. However, people are increasingly using tablets for things they used to do on smartphones and especially PCs.

Good agreed with Stein that video consumption is growing at a phenomenal rate. Most video consumption is on the PC but it is also growing on the tablet and smartphone, he said.

“We’re seeing our network inundated with content consumption.”

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