How to improve the relevance of the news media: reputation, visibility and audience loyalty

Enhance reputation of news media
One of the tables in the article (partial view): actions to enhance reputation


The sustainability of the news media is a priority for democratic societies; yet, in the hypercompetitive digital world, they are losing relevance and face the forbidding challenge of public disengagement as trust in the news wanes. Boosting media relevance and engagement are critical in this quest for sustainability. Still, there are clear opportunities to enhance their specification. We seek to illustrate how they can be operationalised by fostering three of the industry’s key dimensions: reputation, visibility and audience loyalty.

The first two dimensions are explicitly related to relevance, while the third enables us to be unequivocal when addressing the multifaceted concept of engagement. To operationalise these dimensions, we first perform a scoping review of reports published by the industry’s think tanks and, then, categorise the best practices they recommend.

Three critical issues emerge from this exercise: 1) the careful management of staff and resources to meet the demands of digitalisation, 2) the strength of the ties between reputation and loyalty, and 3) the powerful relationship between visibility and organisational size. Ultimately, news media face the challenge of ensuring their staff and resources effectively address the task of maximising reach while guaranteeing a user-centred focus that can generate social impact.

Keywords news media, relevance, engagement, reputation, visibility, loyalty, reach, trust in news, media digitalisation.


Boosting media relevance and engagement are at the heart of the debate centred on new business models that can guarantee the economic sustainability of the news media sector. The concern for relevance is justified by the relative loss of public trust in the media (Newman et al., 2022) and in their ability to interpret reality and shape opinion (Gundlach & Hofmann, 2020); the concern for engagement reflects the need to build audience loyalty and secure its monetisation, through subscriptions and advertising (Nelson & Tandoc, 2019).

The academic perspective on these concepts, as analysed by Castells-Fos et al. (2022), points, on the one hand, to their richness and, on the other, to the need to operationalise them in the day-to-day activity of the media to enhance the sector’s financial prospects. For these reasons, the present study seeks to define the concepts of relevance and engagement, which at times might appear highly abstract, by using three dimensions that are more readily interpreted operationally: that is, media reputation, visibility and audience loyalty.

In the theoretical framework developed herein, the evidence underpinning this decision to convert the relevance-engagement binomial into the reputation-visibility-audience loyalty triad is presented. We show how these first two dimensions – reputation and visibility – are explicitly related to relevance, while the third – audience loyalty – enables us to be unequivocal when addressing the multifaceted concept of engagement.

In considering how these three dimensions form part of the professional practice of journalism, we analyse the global vision of the industry by the sector’s think tanks, that is, institutions or groups of experts – veritable laboratories of ideas – that work to promote the media as sustainable organisations. These institutions shed light on the professional practice of the news media and are, generally, much more accessible than the media outlets themselves. At the same time, by exploiting a scoping review methodology, we can gather data on the insights and proposals of these think tanks for three main geographical areas: Europe, Latin America and the United States.

To address our stated objectives, we pose the following research questions:

  1. How do the newspaper industry’s think tanks address the question of the news media’s reputation?
  2. Can a system of indicators of news media reputation be identified?
  3. How do the think tanks address the question of the visibility of the news media?
  4. Can a system of indicators of news media visibility be identified?
  5. How do the think tanks address the question of audience loyalty?
  6. Can a system of indicators of news media loyalty be identified?

The rest of this study is organised as follows. In developing our theoretical framework, we present a state-of-the-art of the key concepts of relevance and engagement. In so doing, we highlight the convenience of focusing their analysis on the three key dimensions of reputation, visibility and loyalty. We then outline the method employed for selecting the evidence base that underpins this study: the reports published by the news media think tanks. We employ this evidence to derive our results. The study concludes with a discussion of these findings and a presentation of our conclusions.


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