- our expertise
- your stakeholders
- our network
- our company
- our blog
According to Wouter Verschelden, ex-political reporter at De Standaard and former Chief Editor of daily newspaper De Morgen, "15 or 20 years from now, physical newspapers will be a thing of the past". He believes the time has come for journalists to adopt a new path and focus their efforts on online news. In his view, this new online world will be shaped by two models:
In late 2013, Wouter Verschelden teamed up with colleagues Patrick Van Waeyenberge, former Director of Persgroep, and Mick Van Loon, who spent 10 years as Chief Editor of HLN.be, to launch a new website, NewsMonkey. This new venture is based on the second model. NewsMonkey targets 18-34 year-olds seeking fun, free news, and information that can easily be shared via social media. "The average De Morgen reader is 44 years old. In other words, the traditional media completely misses out on a large percentage of the population", explains Verschelden. It is this very same group that NewsMonkey targets. According to recent figures (September 2014), 70% of the website's 55,000 unique daily visitors are under the age of 35.
NewsMonkey was launched through crowd-funding, with a focus on collaboration and participation. The website's copy is written by a relatively small group of around a dozen professional journalists, accompanied by content from visitors and users – registered users are able to publish their own articles on the site. "For the last 100 years, journalism has been a completely one-sided relationship. It's time to give readers their own voice. This can only be a good thing as far as content is concerned", adds Verschelden. Users also determine the visibility of articles on the website – the more "likes" and "shares" an article receives, the more exposure it gains.
Verschelden openly admits that, for NewsMonkey to be a success, the published articles must be shared as widely as possible. "Sharing is more important to us than traffic, since a news website's reputation is built on social media shares," he explains. For this very reason, his copy-writing team features a dedicated "viral unit", which focuses exclusively on news stories that are likely to generate a buzz.
Verschelden's long-term ambition is to develop NewsMonkey into a major news website. "We want to be a website that people check during their lunch break to make sure they haven't missed anything, like the De Standaard and HLN.be websites today," he adds. In practical terms, his aim is to achieve 300,000 unique daily visitors within three years of the website's launch.
Although NewsMonkey is in direct competition with other news website such as HLN.be, it has adopted a rather different approach. Instead of concentrating on shocking or sensational stories, which generate lots of traffic but relatively few shares, NewsMonkey places greater emphasis on positive stories, and on articles less closely related to day-to-day news. It seeks to focus on stories that touch readers' daily lives, in the hope that visitors will be encouraged to share articles with their friends via Facebook and Twitter. At the time of writing, the most popular story on NewsMonkey deals with the 15 most common misconceptions about people with tattoos. This new approach is also one that businesses will need to adopt. If companies want to gain exposure via a website such as NewsMonkey, they will have to adapt their communication style accordingly.
NewsMonkey has also taken a fresh approach to advertising, adopting a different model than traditional media channels. Instead of the banner adverts found on the majority of news websites, it features sponsored articles paid for by advertisers. Yet these stories are not simply marketing copy. They are fully-fledged news articles that follow the same rules as the site's non-sponsored content, often featuring amusing videos to enhance their "viral" appeal. This also represents a new form of communication, providing a source of untapped potential for businesses. Here too, companies will need to learn to speak the "monkey" language.
Mathieu Van Overstraeten