How can a news channel accommodate the audience’s needs effectively and truthfully?
Those working in the televised news industry are constantly asking this question. It’s imperative that we know what our audience is looking for and what they want from us as newsmakers; the answer should help us improve how we create and broadcast the news.
Most news channels frequently carry out market research, surveys, and even focus groups to compile information about their audience, which in turn helps to answer those questions. While these methods are extremely important, we are sure of those answers and the needs of our audience without any of these surveys or research.
This is not the problem we are facing—the main challenge lies in how we can transform or interpret these answers and needs into effective action for vibrant change that takes our way of telling and showing the news to a new level.
For the branding concern, we see no difference in what the answers are. Graphics and designs are very elastic and adaptable in a way that you can make any explanation you like to any design or concept, especially when it comes to a very common and widely open subject like the news. And this is not helpful at all.
To explain this point a bit further, think of how many news channels use some kind of map in their ident and/or news opening sequence to represent the world or their targeted region.
This tells us that despite all the differences in news agendas, target audiences, regional culture and style, the design concepts and branding are pretty much the same. Not only with regards to the channel ident but also for other brand components such as the on screen graphics elements and the overall OSP. Yes, there are some differences in colours, animation, layout, and so on; and yes they are all in the same business, but this is not a reason to copy each other, is it?
Anyone working in the televised news industry has most likely heard of or experienced the so-called “two schools of design and branding”. The American school tends towards a heavy, bulky 3D style, with complicated, fast animation and a crowded screen full of unnecessary elements. The European school, on the other hand, is known for its simple, clean 2D style, with straight lines and the least possible amount of on screen elements with simple animations. This reflects their style of news—simple, straightforward and clear.
Due to a lack of confidence, being sticklers for the rules, staying within our comfort zone, and support from upper management, we restrain ourselves with these traditions and avoid opening the door to new, innovative ideas and concepts.
This is why we still cannot interpret the answers that are revealed to use through market research and focus groups to make an effective yet innovative change on our screens.
The audience today is not like the audience 10 years ago. Today, the audience is looking for a variety of quick, short news stories—they require facts and information more so than personal opinions. They are looking for interactive and dynamic news from big studios with a plethora gadgets.
These requirements need to be transformed creatively on screen and treated differently than how we used to do it. The news channel’s branding should be designed to reveal the meanings and feelings of these requirements and needs. We must move past the rules of the two design schools—not all 3D elements need to be bulky and simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean plain and boring. You can use simple and elegant 3D designs, and make 2D concepts more complex and dynamic.
To decide on which direction or route you should follow when designing a new brand concept or re-vamping an existing one, we need to first fully understand the market and target audience’s needs and requirements, as well as the culture, our news agenda and the best way to come up with a concept that aligns with all of these elements without allowing ourselves to be restrained by old methods and useless traditions.
In the coming articles we will discuss a few points for deciding on the direction to take, and how to create new inventive concepts to brand a news channel.
Nebras Hameed is the head of creative services at AlArab News Channel. He is an award winning creative/art director with over 20 years of experience working in the TV and broadcasting industry.