The Business of Mongabay

Navigating difficult news industry trends

“How are you responding to challenging trends in the news industry?”

To provide background context in answering this frequently asked question, I usually direct people to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report and materials from the Pew Research Center.

Here are a few key data points from these resources I find particularly relevant:

Decline in news consumption: Interest in news is plummeting across most platforms and geographies.

Growing news avoidance: A big reason for the decline in news consumption is that nearly 40% of people actively avoid reading the news because it upsets them, they dislike the coverage, or they distrust journalists.

Evolving social media landscape: This requires media outlets and journalists to frequently reassess which platforms warrant their time + resources. Additionally, platforms like X/Twitter and Facebook are banning or deprioritizing news content.

Increased polarization: Many individuals prioritize content that affirms their political beliefs over factual information, making it difficult to engage audiences.

How is Mongabay responding?

We remain focused on our core strategies:

  • Producing high-quality, original reporting.
  • Making our content freely available.
  • Taking an iterative approach to navigating shifts in news consumption patterns.

For distribution, we concentrate on platforms that foster quality engagement, as this is more likely to contribute to tangible impact. Consequently, we’ve lessened our emphasis on platforms that generate superficial traffic.

We’ve also considered the nature of content that will resonate with readers who may be weary of negative news and those with varying political perspectives.

Slides #5 and #6 provide insights into what “news avoiders” tend to read and steer clear of.

What’s intriguing about the charts from the Reuters Institute is their endorsement of several strategies Mongabay has adopted in recent years:

  • Largely in response to feedback suggesting that “Mongabay is the most depressing site on the Internet” (I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek), we’ve ramped up our solutions journalism coverage. For example, we’ve expanded series on Indigenous-led conservation, WildTech, and nature-based solutions, and produced more explainer content, especially videos. The Reuters Institute data indicates that news avoiders still engage with such content.
  • Climate change and environmental news has become highly polarized, making it difficult to reach audiences across the political spectrum, including people in key decision-making roles. However, addressing these topics in the context of tech, security, finance, and business implications might engage those who’d typically disengage. For instance, many of Mongabay’s climate stories are framed around the impact on a species, ecosystem, or local community, sidestepping a political perspective.

I’ll share more on this topic in the future.

By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.