How long do you pay attention to a particular content on social media?
A study conducted by Fors Marsh Group, a US-based research institution, stated that users spare 1.7 seconds on each content while using Facebook on phones and 2.5 seconds on desktops.
Many of you might have already moved on to the next article and some might have not even clicked the link when it appeared on their Facebook newsfeed. I would not blame anyone for doing so.
In the fast moving world of Industry 4.0, news agencies try their level best to inform people. In this process, an average media publisher posts news on social media by the minute.
You may find your news feed flooded with the likes of such articles, news reports, opinions, entertaining news, and so on - every day - and it can be hard to digest.
"I used to consume a lot of news and it had a huge emotional impact on me. At one point, I just stopped reading news," said Shihab Shahriyar, an engineering freshman, during an interview with The Business Standard.
"News can be very stressful and the pandemic did not make anything easier," he added. "It is not just me, there are a lot of people who feel the same."
While Shihab finds news exhausting, Shadman Sharar Haque, a sophomore at the Bangladesh University of Professionals struggles with retaining attention while reading news.
"It is very hard to attract this generation (Gen Z) to anything. I read The Business Standard but, in most instances, I do not finish reading the entire story and this is the case for any other newspaper out there," said Shadman in a conversation with this writer.
Both, Shadman and Shihab, encountered issues with news circulation practices and came up with their own solutions.
Shadman thought of developing shorter versions of news and making them visually attractive enough to grab readers' attention. Meanwhile, Shihab decided to "borrow the elements that make Western culture look 'cool' and implement them to represent Eastern culture in a good light".
Stemming from these ideas, Shadman launched Nutshell Today and Shihab, on the other hand, founded Cablgram - online platforms dedicated to curating news and presenting the younger generation with short-form content in the most entertaining way possible.
Nutshell Today wants to connect with and inform the future generation.
"This generation (Gen Z) wants to know but cannot really connect with the sources out there. We wish to be the platform where the younger generation can get the daily dose of information they need," said Shadman.
Cablgram, on the other hand, aims to promote Bangladesh's culture glocally. "We want to unify all the cultural elements, bring them together, and make it very easy for an average viewer to consume the content," said Shihab.
Inspired by IGN and Mashable, Cablgram summarises content in an easily digestible way. The content is packaged with an attractive colour palette that helps the average viewer retain attention for a longer period of time.
"With our graphics, captions, and copywriting, we can retain people's attention so that they can understand the full premise of a news story in 5-10 seconds just like they can in 5-10 minutes," explained Tanzil Kabir, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Cablgram.
Nutshell Today began its journey in August 2020 and 10 months down the line, the platform is now reaching more than two million people per month with just six posts a day.
Cablgram, which is 10 months old as well, reached 2.6 million people in June from two million in May with a core team of 10 people.
A platform similar to Nutshell Today created to present news based on facts from verified sources - The Front Page (TFP) - reaches around 1.5 million with an average engagement of 500,000 people per month.
When asked of its purpose, TFP's Chief Editor (who wishes to be anonymous) said, "We want to change the scenario where people will no longer believe fake news so easily, and take time to verify the source before sharing anything."
According to its Chief Editor, the TFP team possesses a neutral view towards controversial issues. Its goal is to let people see both sides of the coin and let them be the judge.
The revenue model
Though Nutshell, Cablgram, and TFP are actively working to bridge the gap between the future generation and news, surprisingly, none of these platforms are generating revenue at the moment.
According to the founders, all three started off as passion projects and are focused on gaining traction for the time being.
"Initially, we thought of generating revenue through sponsored content but it might not sit well with the audience; they would think we are sell outs," said Shadman, when asked why Nutshell Today has not generated revenue so far.
However, the platform wishes to generate revenue through traditional advertising practices in the future. Cablgram also plans to generate revenue through advertising using innovative ways in its days to come.
"We are not looking into monetisation at this point but we are open to any form of opportunities," said TFP's Chief Editor when asked how the platform intends to generate revenue.
In order to assess the financial viability of these platforms from an investor's perspective, The Business Standard reached out to Nirjhor Rahman, CEO of Bangladesh Angels Network.
He said, "Bangladesh's consumer media landscape has been undergoing a tectonic shift, away from traditional, mass market media such as newspapers and TV channels, which seek to aggregate the highest number of audience and package it for sale to market advertisers, to the proliferation of niche media based on psychographics and preferences, that exist on on-demand platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, to name a few.
In this landscape, the content creators who can breakthrough and create a loyal audience have a lot of leverage. They can leverage this relationship with small and large brands who may want to reach their audience through content or product partnerships. They can use this to create and promote their own direct to consumer products or services.
Traditional advertising alone will not make their businesses sustainable, let alone investable. But there are a lot of routes they can go, and only need to look at what is happening in other major media markets for inspiration."
"Mainstream news media has an age problem," reads a report from Flamingo commissioned by the Reuter Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University. "Every year, the Reuters Institute Digital News Report documents how fewer young people are using traditional sources of news such as television, radio and print, and how they are getting more of their news from social media and other aggregators."
This leads us to a question - will this become the new form of consuming news?
We sought the answer from Azad Baig, a media professional with over nine years of experience in heading digital media departments of renowned newspapers, who happens to run his own news curation platform - Briefly.
He said, "It is definitely the future of news consumption. People prefer being updated with news through Facebook and that too within a very short time span. Curating platforms publish content keeping only the important parts of a news article, along with a link to the source in case readers want the whole scoop of the story.
All these platforms are social media based; Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the likes of it are the go-to platforms for such curators to disseminate news.
Speaking of the largest social platform, Facebook follows a particular algorithm that gives photos much higher reach and engagement compared to a link, and this is a primary reason for these platforms to gain popularity.
On another note, people like seeing pictures more than reading text as they do not have much time in hand to thoroughly go through every post they see.
In Bangladesh, readers do not spend more than 1.5 minutes on one news link. Now that they can easily get the information from posts of such curators, why would they even go to the source and read the news?"
When asked why newspapers cannot do the same, Azad said, "It would lower down the traffic on their website which will, in turn, affect the ads impression and as a result, their revenue will fall.
Newspapers do not follow such a strategy. Many do publish stories in formats similar to these news curation platforms. I also publish content in a similar form on Briefly but all posts do not generate the same traffic."