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The power of personal brands to online newspapers


A little while back I gave a talk to the National Union of Journalists about how the web is changing journalism, and central to the talk was the role of personal branding in empowering the journalist.  Traditionally, we have consumed content from a particular publisher, and given that the costs of publishing were high, the branding revolved around that publication.

Now though, not only are publishing costs minimal, but there are also a multitude of ways that journalists can promote their personal brand via social media.  A new report by the Reuters Institute highlights just how far this has now gone.  Their Digital News Report shows that the reputation of individual writers is now the main reason why readers would be willing to pay for online news.

The study saw news readers from around the world asked their opinion on a variety of topics, and it emerged that in several countries, the brand of the journalist was at least as important as the publication itself.  Even in those countries where the publication brand still ruled the roost, there was considerable growth in the importance of the journalists personal brand.

The report goes on to suggest that this rise in personal branding has largely been fueled by the ease with which content can be published and distributed online.  Social media is also playing a huge role in the success of individual journalists.

In the UK for instance, the study found that 48% of respondees were following a journalist on Twitter.  Report author Nic Newman, a research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said: ‘Digital and social media seem to be encouraging journalism with a human face. In an increasingly competitive market there is likely to be an increasing economic premium attached to the very best writers and journalists.

The report goes on to identify some of the threats to the mainstream news industry, and highlights social media and mobile devices as the most powerful agents of change.  The younger generation are increasingly finding news on the go and at various times throughout the day, which marks a shift from the traditional means of consumption either through a newspaper or television broadcast, where news is lumped into condensed slots.

Interestingly, the report didn’t touch so much on the power of the Internet to provide niche news in much greater quantity and quality.  Of the many news related publishers in my Feedly account for instance, I don’t think I have a single instance of what I would regard as a mainstream publisher.

How about you?  How has your news consumption changed?  Do you follow individuals as much as you do publications?

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