National news agencies have served traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV in their respective countries for dozens of years., limiting themselves to the b2b segment. No matter what the ownership - private, semi-private, public or state - they kept faith in their media stakeholders and clients, concentrating solely on their information needs, relying on such clients to convey the branded message to the public.
In today's world of the Internet such approach may be at least self-demeaning and in the coming years could lead to death of the news agency as a wholesale supplier of information and related services. Here are some observations that might serve as reasons good enough for a news agency to rethink its strategy.
1. The classic information chain where news agency is the wholesale supplier no longer works with the breaking news. Local, national or international, the news may come from any media source or even beyond - a newsmaker or a witness. Once made public, the news is disseminated by all the media disregarding the traditional hierarchy. Blogs and other new media are already attributed to by the leading international news agencies like AP. All the links in the information chain now compete to be the first with the news at the consumers screen.
2. Local media markets are increasingly served by international news agencies. In Russia, Reuters is cited as a source by the leading newspapers almost the same number of times as the local leader Interfax, a privately held news agency focusing on financial and economic news. These newspapers use pictures from Reuters as often as they do from the two leading national news agencies - RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS.
3. Local and regional media unite into big national and international chains that vigorously compete with each other in every local market. If they are shareholders of a national news agency, like PA, such competition may adversely affect their capacities to objectively perform in such a duty.
4. Traditional media are in crisis. Print media suffer from fall in circulation, sales and advertising revenues. Together with the broadcasters they experience loss of audience as the young web-surfers grow up and stay with their choice of media. At the same time, any digital or new media projects of the traditional media are still largely marginal in their contribution to the financial result.
5. Mobile network operators and global aggregators enter into deals with the international news agencies, bringing their brands directly to the public and increasing their competitiveness in the local markets.
News agencies currently play a crucial role in creating the non-stop flow of news and information. To have a role in the market, say, ten years from now we have to be sure the agency's applications, services and information will be in line with the demand of the future. No other media company can match news agency's breadth and speed, so the demand should be there.
Will there be national news agencies in ten years? In those cases where these shareholders are print and/or broadcast media, the news agencies are most likely to transform into technology or service providers should they limit themselves to the b2b or b2b2c markets. Where the shareholders are non-media – general public, corporate & financial, government, the news agencies are more likely to transform into efficient online mediahouses as they possess an intrinsic advantage of being able to gather news and process information with no deadlines in 24/7/365 mode.
National news agencies should therefore consider entering into the b2c segment asap to reestablish the balance of information and make the local media markets more technologically developed and competitive.
B2c entrance points for national news agencies could be the following:
- Web portal, niche or general news, add or subscription supported
- Mobile push or pull service, add or subscription supported
- Mobile app (iPhone, iPad, Android, Symbian etc.)
- Partnership with a local search portal, aggregator, journalism school or university
Media stakeholders and clients of the news agencies would rediscover them in the role of idea labs and propagators of factual stories. This would allow traditional media to concentrate on stories and their analysis instead, no matter what the delivery platform, to the benefit of the consumer.