Two key words for news media last year: NINO and FILO

January 03, 2019 11:48
Despite the growing focus on digital, printed newspapers are expected to remain a draw for advertisers who seek older customers. Photo: Bloomberg

Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab has summed up a number of trends in the global news media industry in 2018, and coined new words -- "NINO" and “FILO” -- to describe two of the new trends. 

First, NINO is the acronym for “Newspapers In Name Only”, a reference to the growing trend last year where newspapers need no longer be printed in physical form. A US study indicated that currently nearly 70 percent of people in the country were reading their news on smartphones.

As a result, the study implied, it has become redundant for the print news media to publish printed newspapers in a massive scale, since the only thing that matters nowadays is the “brand effect” of traditional newspapers.

However, this doesn’t mean that printed newspapers would completely disappear, as they would be seen as a limited edition and high-end commodity targeting specifically a niche market dominated by premium middle-aged and elderly readers.

As such, printed newspapers would still remain attractive to advertisers who are after older customers.

And the second prevailing trend is FILO, the acronym for “First In Last Out”, which refers to the way news stories are being positioned or 'layouted' on digital news platforms, be it online media outlets or the online versions of traditional newspapers.

In the past, editors often adopted the approach of LIFO (“Last In First Out”), under which fresh and latest news stories would be uploaded onto news websites or apps as quickly and as soon as possible, so that old and less appealing news stories would be squeezed out.

According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the way of news stories layout has begun to undergo a structural change in recent years, with editors getting increasingly concerned about how much time readers would be willing to spend on digesting a news story.

And because of that change, today more and more editors have ditched the LIFO presentation and started going for the FILO one instead in running news stories on the digital platforms.

Under FILO, online editors will identify new stories that are getting the most hits or visits from readers, and then try their very best to prolong readers’ attention span in order to keep those news stories on the smartphone screen as long as possible.

The Nieman Lab has predicted that, as a result of the FILO approach, "real breaking news" is likely to give way to "hot news", because once readers’ buzz about a particular news story is built, the online news platforms would go to any lengths to keep that buzz alive so as to get more hits and pageviews from netizens.

This will lead to the situation where, on a day, more and more news stories which are elevated to the top are not likely to have come from that particular day.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 28

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

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HKEJ contributor