Seemingly out of nowhere, The News Movement has created a disruptive media brand targeting young audiences as well as partnering with global media organizations like The Associated Press to produce content on TikTok and YouTube Shorts. We spoke to co-founder Ramin Beheshti to discover their secret in engaging Gen Z.
Soft launched in 2020 and with 60 staff split between NYC and London, The News Movement is the brainchild of five publishing execs with serious, heavyweight form:
William Lewis (former CEO of Dow Jones, Publisher, The Wall Street Journal), Kamal Ahmed (former Editorial Director of BBC News), Ramin Beheshti (former Group Chief Product and Technology Officer at Dow Jones), Eleanor Breen (former Chief of Staff at Dow Jones), and Dion Bailey (former VP, Head of Technology and Architecture at The Wall Street Journal).
Spotting a clear gap in the market, the quintet is aiming to create a different type of news publisher – News 2.0 – using content specifically aimed at Gen Z. With over 1.7 billion views and 1.1 million followers across its network of owned brands – all of which have been grown organically – suggests that the publisher is getting its formula right.
The timing couldn’t be better to launch a social-first news organization. Trust in legacy media is falling precipitously alongside a similar decline in young audiences. Gen Z is also a significant audience in terms of size – born between 1997 and 2012, it represents 25% of the world’s population and will comprise 27% of the workforce by 2025.
The under 25s have grown up with social media, and their behaviors and attitudes are far different. This group of ‘social natives’ define news in a different way, are less interested in traditional subjects like politics and have a weaker connection with news brands. Eight-in-ten (78%) of 18-24s access news via side door routes such as aggregators, search engines and social media each week.Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022
Speaking to WNIP, Ramin Beheshti says that the co-founders’ experiences at Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal played a big part in formulating their plans, “There was an audience that wasn’t even sampling our content at WSJ, as well as some of our other publications, and that was a huge issue in driving subscriptions – if you’ve got people coming and sampling your content, you can convert them to subscribers, but if they’re not even sampling your content what do you do?
“This led us to build a news company based on rigor and all the strong things of good journalism but crucially try to meet people where they are.”
Tying partnerships and consultancy together
Aside from creating content for its own newsrooms, a central tenet of TNM’s business model is consultancy and partnerships with third parties. Earlier this month TNM announced a partnership with EXPLR Media, an organization that produces and shares educational videos for U.S. students. The two companies will collaborate on developing educational news content aimed at grade 7-12 children as well as access to each other’s library of content to share across their respective audiences.
It comes hot on the heels of a partnership with music creator platform, UnitedMasters, to provide soundtracks to TNM’s news stories as well as seeing the two companies join forces to educate and engage new, younger audiences through events and showcasing the experiences of young artists.
However, it was the announcement of TNM’s partnerships with the Associated Press and National World that raised eyebrows, especially its partnership with the latter. The aim is to accelerate National World’s new operating model and drive a younger audience to its brands including The Yorkshire Post, The Scotsman and nationalworld.com.
Consultancy is too light a way of framing it – we’re actually doing the work for some news organizations by embedding journalists within newsrooms. For example, with one publisher we run their entire TikTok channel.
Our mission is to reach Gen Z but we can’t do it ourselves. Partnering with other news organizations is key to this.Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder, The News Movement
Reaching Gen Z
We asked Ramin what were the key trends he was seeing regarding Gen Z media consumption habits, to which his reply was emphatic, “It’s constant change – the moment you find a formula that works, it changes, and you have to start again.”
We’ve just launched a series with someone putting on makeup and talking about news stories at the same time. It’s a trend of ‘get ready with’ which we’ve seen is quite effective in delivering news. These are trends on social which we want to incorporate into new story telling.Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder, The News Movement
And the potential U.S. TikTok ban? “If TikTok was banned it would impact us, yes, but our strategy is to reach audiences where they are – if audiences leave TikTok they have to go somewhere.”
“We recently acquired an online political media publisher called the Recount and we’ve re-launched their Snapchat show “What the f**k, America” – it’s about how we can grow on multiple platforms and we place emphasis on them all.”
Our average newsroom age is 24 because the storytelling must be authentic and come from that generation.Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder, The News Movement
We then asked Ramin what he felt were the key points that publishers need to be aware of when reaching Gen Z? “It’s not about reformulating content onto different channels, it’s about understanding how music plays a role, and especially what the first three seconds are.”
The first three seconds are everything on YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels and TikTok, and we focus a lot on what we can do in those first three seconds – what’s the emotion, what are the sounds, what’s the visual, etc. Our completion rates are high compared to the broader averages, and we also look at how we can engage within the comment sections as well. That’s key.Ramin Beheshti, Co-Founder, The News Movement
“We’re also working with other creators where they can help amplify our content. It’s a huge area of growth and opportunity for us. We have a creator-relations team whose job is solely to work with creators on an authentic, non-paid basis – it’s a cross-pollination of their followers and our followers.”
An example of TNM’s Gen Z content can be seen in the YouTube video below:
Having raised significant capital during an investor round last year, Ramin feels that the current market climate will surface further opportunities, especially acquisitions, “We are raising more funds to take advantage of any opportunities that might appear and which align with our business strategy and mission.”
Given their success in little over 30 months, it would take a brave person to bet against them.
The Oliver Wyman Forum and The News Movement have jointly released a data-driven research project exploring the lives of Gen Z and their impact on business and society. The report is free to download and can be accessed here.