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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - July 2022

We need to innovate our formats

One of the biggest challenges of any industry is that there are two very different markets. One is the market of the familiar, where everything looks and feels the same as it has always done, and the other market is the market of the new and different, that challenges people's way of doing things, and creates new opportunities and potentials.

In most cases, the old and familiar market is the one that dominates, whereas the new innovative market is the one where all the small niches exist, and usually, these small niches have a really hard time getting things to grow. But, every now and then, the new market takes over because it solves the problem in a way that is just better than what we had.

In the media industry, we see this every day, except we have a really weird problem with it because most publishers are kind of stuck between these markets.

What I mean is that the old traditional market is not doing that well. Only about 15% of the public feels that paying for the traditional definition and format of news is valuable to them, meaning that 85% of the public should, theoretically, buy in this other new market?

Except they are not. The niche market for news is also absolutely tiny, and even after two decades of 'print to digital', no company has been able to innovate news in a way that made them the new dominant platform.

But wait, you say, what about Facebook and TikTok? But they too haven't been able to do it. While they have certainly started to dominate in other areas, news is not their strong suit. The share of news people see in their feeds is absolutely miniscule, and if you ask the public, they would prefer that it wasn't there at all.

So, as an industry, we are at this really weird place where the traditional model performs really terribly (in most countries), and the new innovative models are still just small niches. They are often good and very interesting niches, but they are still small niches.

So, we need to find a way to fix this, and to do that, we need to start to explore even more different ways to do things, but also we need to question why the past 20 years of innovation has made so little difference.

In fact, let's start with that.

How engagement became unengagement

One of the greatest problems and misconceptions I have seen over the past 20 years is that we define engagement in an entirely wrong way. And let me explain why.

Let's start by asking the very simple question: What does the word 'engaged' mean? Well, the answer is simple. We just look it up in the dictionary, where we see that it means:

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What is Baekdal?

Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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