A Conversation on Top Industry Trends With Media Reporter Sara Fischer of Axios

At Greentarget we work hard to keep up with the evolving media landscape, given the work we do for clients. Sara Fischer, media reporter at Axios, has been an important resource for us – and probably is for anyone trying to understand the future of news.

So we were excited when Fischer agreed to discuss the latest industry trends with us and provide her thoughts on the role Axios is playing in the current media environment.

Axios was established as a media company delivering vital, trustworthy news and analysis in the most efficient, illuminating and shareable ways possible. Fischer joined when the publication launched in January 2017. She told us why her role as a media reporter made sense – she came in as “an expert on both sides.”

“I had sold advertising on behalf of a number of high-profile outlets, and also had the opportunity to be a reporter,” she said. “When the heads of Axios were looking for a new reporter to cover the media environment, we all agreed it was a good fit.”

A focus of Fischer’s writing has been to better understand user behavior and media consumption. She’s dug into user experience’s impact on how people get news, and her takeaways have shaped the direction of Axios’ news coverage.

“Readers don’t always like long-form content when reading hard, breaking news. However, as it relates to softer news, longer-form is more acceptable,” she said. “User experience is also paramount. Design and technology need to go hand-in-hand. If a site has too many ads, the user won’t stay with the publication. A website must be clean and fast, or a user won’t want to go there.”

Fischer and Axios have extensively researched user behavior and whether people will pay for news – a matter that has bedeviled news organizations for more than two decades. Of particular interest is social media, with fewer than 10 percent of respondents to a new Adobe study saying they are very likely to pay for news through social media channels.

For Fischer, this wasn’t at all surprising.

“There is a news and information gap in the U.S. between highly educated people and low-income people,” she said. “Highly educated people are more likely to pay for news, and they are starting to do so more frequently. However, lower-income people will continue to turn to social media as a way to access news and information, because it’s free. The challenge, however, is that they are still looking for sources of news they believe in and trust, and on social media, it’s not always easy to decipher.”

Fischer analyzed these challenges in an article on a study from the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It found that just 25 percent of people have a “great deal” of trust for social media as a news source, with trust in Facebook being much lower at 12 percent.

Fischer explained in her article why this is such a huge problem. “Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults get news on social media, and according to Pew, 68 percent of people don’t trust the news they see or read, which is the highest distrust rate the U.S. has ever seen.”

Fischer also writes about how reporters continue to adapt in the evolving media landscape. Last month, she wrote about how Google is launching new features in its free Cloud Natural Language API to help newsrooms and other businesses sort out information, making it easier to search later.

Artificial intelligence’s impact on journalism is an important topic these days, and Fischer believes AI will continue to affect the stories journalists write and become instrumental in helping reporters market content to reach new readers.

“Reporters will be able to use the machine learnings to better manage reader relationships,” she said. “Some newsrooms are using AI to translate pieces for international markets.”

Following up on our recent conversation with Courtney Radsch, advocacy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, we asked Fischer about how the current political environment has impacted the media environment, both for better and worse. She noted how media outlets (even publications like Vanity Fair) are creating political verticals to keep up with the public interest and a newfound aggressive fact-checking culture.

“Fact-checking has really become the center of the news landscape, and we continue to see services for fact-checking and verification to counter fake news in social media increase,” she said.

“Some journalists are struggling amid the 24-hour news cycle, longing for the day when they could be done at the end of the day,” Fischer said. “But the chaotic environment has enticed more readers to pay for news.”

“More and more people are looking for ways to distill the truths around them, and a number of publications have definitely witnessed bumps in subscriptions,” Fischer said.

Fischer moderated Axios’ first Future of the Media event last month and wrote about some of the key takeaways from the heavy hitters who participated (it’s definitely worth a read). To close our conversation, we asked Fischer what she finds most fascinating in the evolving news environment.

Her answer: There is no regulatory body that is completely responsible for oversight of the internet. There are three bodies that are responsible for parts of internet regulation. The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for illegal content, like child pornography. The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for false commercialization, like diet pill scams. And the DOJ is responsible for anti-trust.

“With what technology is capable of doing, I’m not sure how people are shocked about Russia using Facebook’s tools to target specific ads,” she said, echoing a recent Mashable story. “Anyone who has worked on the sales side of media knows that there’s nothing crazy about the functionality of this, and how easy it is to do.”

Since joining Greentarget ten years ago, Lisa has found great success as a highly-effective account manager and media relations expert.

During college basketball season, she can be found cheering on her Indiana University Hoosiers.