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Five tips for understanding the impact of online news

By: Ian Buchanan |

The digital news industry is growing. Jobs in digital newsrooms grew 82% from 2008-2018. When news is written about your organization, candidate, or business, it can be difficult to distill the impact. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work through your analysis.

Source Matters – Know their target audience.

While local news is bound by its regional proximity, online news can reach anyone, and the more people it reaches, the more advertising money it creates. So creating engaging content draws attention. The more dramatic, vivid, comedic, or sexy the news is, the more appeal it has to the online masses. But online news sources cannot appeal to everyone all the time, and specialization has developed.

Knowing the source of the article and its target audience will help you understand the true impact of the information.

Audiences are Influenced – Recognize the potential impact.

While online news typically covers a specific topic, position or subject matter, its result (or intention) is often to influence the perception of the audience. Recognize the potential influence of your earned news coverage, and analyze how the audience may react. Try to be objective as you review the article. Evaluate the source’s target audience, check the website’s typical reach, and evaluate the potential reception the audience may perceive.

People are Bias Seeking – Keep in mind perceptions.

We all want confirmation that our perceptions are valid. This is no different with news sources – we are bias seeking in our consumption. For sports fans it is easy to recognize this characteristic. Fans of a team look for articles from experts reading tea leaves predicting the fortunes of this year’s squad (Browns fans have become justifiably jaded.).

Political news is a more extreme example of this phenomenon. It is difficult in this arena of life for people to recognize their own biases. But it should be easier for you to objectively recognize this in others. This is important when analyzing who is consuming the information – and sometimes more importantly – why?

Sentiment is Important – Know the tone of the your news.

Analyzing the sentiment of the news can be a complicated process. Modern technology can be leveraged to automatically determine the sentiment of the content, but this is not a perfect science. Understanding the sentiment of your news is important in helping guide your reaction. Perform brief quantitative and qualitative analysis of the tone of your news, and gain insight into your earned media.

Knowing the tone helps you digest the emphasis of your news. This allows you to understand if and how you react.

Proactively Engage the Process – Do something about it.

Once you’ve analyzed your earned media you can engage appropriately. Celebrate positive news by participating in the process – share the news on your social media platforms, laud the praise with staff, and enjoy the moment. Address the negative coverage and work towards resolutions (if possible). Evaluate your media coverage objectives and react accordingly. Whatever your response, make sure it is measured and helps you move towards accomplishing your goals.

The digital news landscape continues to evolve. According to the Pew Research Center in 2018, 34% of Americans preferred to get their news online. That figure is up from 28% two years earlier.  As this trend continues to shift, it is important for you to understand the impact of your earned news online.

Ian Buchanan is the Vice President of Newz Group.