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5 Reasons You Need to Go Digital-First

Is your news organization still holding off on publishing stories online until they have either run in the print edition or been broadcast on-air?

This isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be, and is often tied to resources rather than newsroom philosophy, but there are still some publishers and executives who worry about cannibalizing their primary product.

According to a recent ICFJ survey, many newsrooms still haven’t gotten into a truly digital-first mindset, with only 47 percent of newsrooms checking analytics data on a daily basis.

While it is true that in the news business our apps and websites aren’t paying the bills yet, the key to monetizing those digital products is to build a strong digital audience. Here are five reasons you should consider going digital-first, if you haven’t already.

Before we dig in, it should be noted that I’m not suggesting that anyone ever sacrifice accuracy in the name of getting the story first.

If you are the first source on a story that Google News picks up, you will not only gain the traffic from being the first source to report it, but you will also be more likely to see your followup stories move to the top of the list. If it is a big issue, getting that story on the web first could be the gift that keeps on giving for months.

This one is obvious, but if you are the first source that reports a story and you’re the only one talking about it on Facebook and Twitter, even if it is just for 5 minutes longer than everyone else, your story will get shared and re-shared and could gain more traction than other sources. This also helps build your follower-base.

As mentioned in the previous item, your audience grows as people share your stories, however, they aren’t likely to share old news. If you’re still waiting until your broadcast or print deadline after all of your competition has already posted the story and after you’ve printed or aired it, the web version of your story is  now “old news.” It’ll get some traffic from your loyal followers, but you will not gain many additional audience members.

A recent media consumption study  conducted by Reuters shows that breaking news and recently reported news were the main factors in a website visitor’s final decision to purchase a digital subscription. So, if you use a pay meter on your site, you want to have the most current content possible.

Part of this is impulse. Readers are more willing to pay if there is something they want to see right now. Readers are also more willing to buy a subscription if they can’t find that story anywhere else at the time they are trying to view it.

In another note, this same study showed that millennials are more willing to buy subscriptions now, so now is the ideal time to move to a digital first strategy.

When visitors to your website can see a story before it is printed or aired, it gives the community an opportunity to give you feedback. You can see how the story is playing, how people are reacting to it and if you have a detail wrong, someone will point it out to you. This improves the quality of your final print or broadcast version. Something that you thought would be an inconsequential story might actually end up as your lead story.

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