News apps: how they’ve changed the newsroom and why it matters in PR

News apps and new software are growing in importance for newsbrands and have even changed the dynamics within newsrooms and the way journalists work. Comms professionals from Newgate, W and Golin discuss how this has affected PR.

As the closure of national newspaper The New Day has shown, it now difficult for titles to survive without a solid digital strategy. This has only been emphasised by The Independent’s success story since closing its print edition. The title claims its app The Independent Daily Edition has reached a bigger audience than its former print edition by more than 50%.

However, digital makes a different set of demands on journalists. At an exclusive Gorkana briefing earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal’s Europe editor, Phillipa Leighton-Jones discussed how the WSJ City app has changed the way in which its team works: “We are producing something in a different format and the City team has changed the way we think about stories. It’s now really about the most important element of stories and how to surface them as quickly as possible; its thinking about how to tell a long series of narrative in block-points or charts or news ways of storytelling.”

So, how should PRs adapt to these changes and how can comms professionals work with newsrooms which have a focus on producing content for apps?

Apps give PRs opportunity to develop new forms of content

Content development has to be approached in fresh and innovative ways due to the popularity of mobile apps. Nitesh Khetani, account manager, B2B technology at Golin, explained: “While traditional longer pieces may work for print newspapers, consumers on mobile apps are looking for a quick, simple and interactive way to digest information. This has led PRs to invest a lot of time in developing content such as infographics and video.”

Alistair Kellie, partner at Newgate, added that news apps such as WSJ City, Economist Expresso and the FT require more content. This creates opportunity for PRs to produce content that can match or adapt to the needs or style of individual apps. For instance, this might mean  image-heavy or concise content is particular appropriate for different news products.

PR teams need to keep up with the pace of newsrooms

Khetani believes that the speed at which PR teams must now deliver content has increased and so has the pace at which media trends are set. He said: “I feel that PRs have almost become analysts in the sense that we are having to predict trends in advance to place relevant content for clients rather than jumping on the back of current ones, as was done in the not-so-distant past.”

Apps are becoming increasingly popular with busy business leaders who are looking for well curated and timely news alerts, according to Kellie. He said: “[Apps] are challenging the traditional role of the BBC’s Today programme in shaping people’s outlook for the say on what the big stories are.”

News teams are increasingly looking for content that works on all platforms

The aim for PRs is to create content that works across platforms, according to Kellie. He says: “The increasing popularity of news apps certainly means that they are worth considering as a platform for important announcements. The challenge is ensuring that the story has enough depth to also translate into print coverage.

“Ideally you still aim for a range of formats and that means tailoring the story and working out how you build it for different channels. News teams are increasingly asking for this content to be compiled as a digital media pack,” he added.

Becky Charles, head of media at W, said the platform you choose to pitch to is immaterial, as long as you provide valuable content. She explained: “As PRs we can help by not only being ‘always on’, but also ‘always ready’ to create flexible, easily digestible, smart content that news outlets are able to publish, but also optimise and share across every sort of platform – from apps and social, to website and print.”

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