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Gary Liu: Messaging apps will overtake Facebook as primary news source

News publishing is on the cusp of a new era which will see articles primarily shared through messaging apps, the CEO of South China Morning Post has suggested.

Gary Liu, previously CEO of aggregate news site Digg, outlined the struggles facing news organisations as advertising and print revenues decline and social media sites like Facebook become primary sources of news for so many.

“People are now going to fewer sources. Right now Facebook is a leader in that,” he said. But he added: “The age of the app is moving on. People are going to messenger apps. We’re on the cusp of a new era.”

Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post, gave conference guests a glimpse of the future: Photo: FCC/Sarah Graham

Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post, gave conference guests a glimpse of the future: Photo: FCC/Sarah Graham

Liu, a former executive at music streaming service Spotify, also proclaimed the homepage dead, an opinion first floated by the New York Times in its innovation report published in 2014.

He said publishers needed to think about their content and its delivery in an entirely new way: “Publishers have to think about two different types of platform: discovery and consumption.”

He said 90% of people now visit messaging apps every day, adding that it will become the primary “discovery and consumption” platform for publishers.

Liu explained that since so many people get their news from social media – quoting a Reuters report that stated 46% of U.S. adults now consume their news on Facebook – publishers were “no longer a world where our product is the world’s best, most accurate narrative on what’s going on”.

He added: “We should look at this as golden opportunity for news.” Liu said that the digital age had brought storytelling with reach not previously available in human history and encouraged publishers to innovate.

“Our brands are at risk… 50% of U.S. adults don’t look at the publisher name,” he said.

Liu avoided talking in depth about his new role at the 115-year-old SCMP, which was bought by China tech giant Alibaba in late 2015 – a move which prompted fears it would adopt a pro-establishment stance. He said the company was “still trying to figure out what our transformation will look like”.