In episode one of the IBC’s Changemaker series of Podcasts, The News Movement’s co-founder and former BBC Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed spoke with Nadira Tudor to discuss the importance of journalism in a world dominated by social media.
Kamal Ahmed began the conversation by setting out the big question that has defined his work in recent years: “The big problem is how do we reimagine what journalism is for the next generation of consumers? Because journalism matters, it matters for democracy, it matters that people are informed to be able to navigate the world and make the best of their own lives.
“The world is not always reflected fairly in the way the news is covered. I think it’s important that we in journalism and broader content creation have solutions [as well as] have some optimism. One of the main reasons for many audiences switching away from the news is because it can feel relentlessly bleak.
Also, there’s that slight sense you can often get from the news ‘here are seven things you really need to worry about - and now the weather.’ Well, that’s not how people navigate content anymore.”
Breaking down barriers
Ahmed continued to make the point that ‘gatekeepers’ of news content bring an inherent bias to news coverage, and when younger people ask ‘why is ‘that’ the news?’, a wider conversation needs to be had.
“It was quite hard for me to answer [that question] because a group of people and let’s be frank, in our careers, mostly men of a certain age and a certain background, decided that was the news. We need to think differently about how we consider what is what is important because what’s important to younger audiences is that they have to be interested. They are very open to learning about the world.”
A complex environment
Ahmed also dug into the challenges of successfully engaging multi-platform audiences, highlighting the sometimes fleeting nature of social networks and the necessity to adapt to changing platforms as dynamically as possible.
“It’s a very complicated environment, which is constantly changing. We talk about platforms, which of course we love dearly because that’s how we distribute our work. But they can be unreliable boyfriends. Some of them work for a while and then suddenly they’ve ghosted you or something doesn’t work anymore, and you don’t know why, don’t what you’ve done wrong. But, of course, that is where our audience is. So we can sit there and shout into the wind about the platforms don’t do this, the platforms don’t do that - well, frankly, that ship has sailed.”
Listen to Kamal Ahmed The Changemakers Podcast Episode 1 - Have I got news for new audiences…?
Partnerships and revenue models
Touching on business models, Ahmed discussed several specific partnerships with the Associated Press and National World, publishers of Scotland on Sunday, as well as the wider publishing revenue models in play.
“Our business is content creation, and we are learning every day. How do you communicate in high impact ways with this next generation of consumers, whether that’s news or frankly, anything, and so when we think about our business model, we think about our journalism which is which helps us know how to tell stories.”
Listen and learn
He continued to highlight some of the specific challenges of entrepreneurship in such a competitive environment.
“I spend most of my time talking about how you make businesses better? I mean, I’ve been doing it for 26 years. I don’t think that ever goes away, I think that’s a really important part of the entrepreneurial journey - testing yourself constantly. Also having your co-founders test, test each other and also our team.
“Listen first, and you should always be listening for where the gaps are in your own knowledge. What don’t we know? Because what you don’t know is where the opportunity lies - if you don’t know it’s likely to other people don’t know that as well. So that’s where the addressable market is the people who aren’t engaged in the right way by the present news offer.”
To close he summarised his driving force to deliver meaningful change:
“We love what we’re doing, I think essence of being a changemaker is if it’s in your soul, as well as in your intellectual brain. That gives you the best chance of success. I’ve been driven my whole career about the notion of equity. Equity not just in how people are treated, but in equity and information.”
See all Changemakers Podcast Episodes, including upcoming Episode 2:
Beyond the corporate plan: Learning to get DEI right, available now: listen here
Check out the IBC2023 Changemakers line-up