We are all well aware that the way we source information has been shifting for some time now. One need look no further than the staggering success of the Huffington Post as a sign of the increasing prominence and credibility of news and opinion sourced directly from experts and citizens. And thinking in terms of a one-way migration from print to digital consumption of news is simplistic; the viral sharing of content between a fragmented, increasingly mobile audience makes distribution more complex than ever.
Traditional publishers of news face a growing challenge to reach audiences and remain profitable, highlighted by a deal struck between Facebook and several media owners including The New York Times. Some might call the tie-up predictable given the large share of audience happy to source news in their social news feed. Mark Thompson, chief executive of the New York Times has said that "judicious engagement with other platforms makes sense" and that the newspaper will have complete control over which of its content appears on Facebook.
And so at Stream, an annual gathering organised by WPP and held most recently at the Cannes Lions festival, I was particularly interested in a session inviting the chiefs of the New York Times and The Guardian sit down with the CEO at Vice to powwow the Future of News and Storytelling.
Mark Thompson, chief executive of the New York Times told Stream-goers that the title makes most of its revenue from a relatively small number of the most engaged of its audience. I wonder if the social audience is too fickle to dwell for long before moving on to the next temptingly bite-sized nugget of content? Or, like me, do many of us value poring over long-form content in the weekend papers as much as we do skim-reading industry updates on our commute?
Personally, I value news that appears in my social feeds. Increasingly, I link from Twitter and now Facebook as much as I go to news brands' own sites. The enmeshing of 'Old' and 'New' moves the speed versus veracity debate on to a more realistic debate of authenticity and engagement on consumers' terms.
I'll be watching closely as the deal unfolds to see how it will be monetised fairly. Facebook claims that publishers will keep 100 per cent of any revenue from ads sold directly by them, while it will take a 30 per cent cut of remaining ad space sold via the social site. Clearly, there are rewards to reap in terms of reach and volume - but what then? Facebook may want to point users to news sites, but the move also positions it as the place where readers source and consume it too. And given the frustrating experience that often comes with loading news direct from publishers sites to mobile, why wouldn't they?
We're definitely going to see continuing innovation in the digital news space - the forging of Trufflepig, a partnership between WPP, Daily Mail and Snapchat is a fascinating sign of the pace of change in social content.
While our hunger for news shows no sign of abating, the rules of engagement are still adapting fast. New purveyors of content have an opportunity to reinvent news for a digital generation; established players need to catch up, fast. Our role as media agencies, as I see it, remains to help our clients mine the opportunities of this new territory where we will see continuing innovation.