The second wave of news gamification, changing practices in investigative journalism in response to source protection erosion, and the rise of automated reporting dominate the newrooms trends identified in a new report launched in Washington DC on Tuesday during the World Editors Forum.
1. New Convergence – where games, Virtual Reality and wearables meet news
There is a growing movement to combine two seemingly incompatible industries: gaming and the news. The gamification of news – where video game technology and practises are used in conjunction with traditional journalism methods – is attracting renewed interest from newsrooms around the world. Media organisations like the BBC, the Guardian and the New York Times have all created their own ‘news games’ in recent years, while BuzzFeed recently announced the creation of a ‘gaming’ team devoted to creating content for the site. What is driving this interest?
2. Source Protection Erosion – the rising threat to investigative journalism
It used to be possible to promise confidentiality to sources – guaranteeing protection of their identities, even on pain of jail – in countries where legal source protection frameworks were robust. But, internationally, ethical commitments to, and legal protections for, journalistic sources are being undercut by surveillance (both mass surveillance and targeted surveillance) and mandatory data retention policies; trumped by national security and anti-terrorism legislation; undermined by the role of third party intermediaries like Google, Facebook, Twitter and ISPs, and restricted by overly narrow interpretation of laws designed for an analogue world. So, the attention of investigative journalists and their editors is necessarily turning to risk assessment, self-protection and source education.
In this essay, we analyse changing practices among investigative journalists in response to source protection erosion, based on interviews with over a dozen investigative journalists and editors.
The bottom line, “Just assume you’re being watched”
3. The Rise of the Robots – welcome to your automated news future
The Associated Press (AP) has just hired an Automation Editor, a first for the industry. The most recent news from AP on the automation front was that they would also be using automated reporting to cover thousands of college sports games that they didn’t previously report on.
“If people think this isn’t going to happen quickly – it is,” says Vice President and Managing Editor of the Associated Press (AP) Lou Ferrara who sits at the frontline of automated reporting.
4. Journalism After Charlie – lessons learned as the shockwaves continue
The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in central Paris was a wake-up call for journalism globally. It graphically demonstrated that journalists are now terrorism targets – at their desks as well as in war zones. It created a new set of safety crises for newsrooms, and it put press freedom on the front page internationally. But it also highlighted the need for culturally sensitive reporting; the disparity between coverage of terrorism attacks affecting the West and those that plague developing countries; the threat of government censorship as a counter-terrorism measure; and the increasing risks involved in reliance on User Generated Content (UGC) in the context of conflict. The question facing editors and journalists now, is how to respond in the longer term – ethically, editorially and managerially.
5. The Podcasting Revolution – the audio renaissance needs your attention
They’re calling it the “Serial effect.” Serial is the phenomenally successful spin-off of This American Life, on US National Public Radio (NPR): a “docu-tainment” podcast that’s spawned nearly 80 million downloads. That’s right, the latest trend in storytelling is not driven by super-innovative technology. It requires no expensive accessories and it’s widely accessible. It’s called LISTENING.
Podcasting, which began a decade ago, liberated radio from the tyranny of the timetable. It has transformed the notoriously ephemeral audio medium into a thriving ecology.
And while the audio revival didn’t commence with Serial, it is the audio storytelling disrupter of the century. The 12-part series blended suspense-style narrative techniques borrowed from TV drama with the intimate power of radio journalism. The result was a serialised story that kept listeners glued to their headphones while making audio hip again.
6. Chat Apps Surge – riding the new wave of social media
Just as newsrooms are settling into their social media workflows, the mobile-driven chat app trend is presenting new challenges likely to cause upheaval. All over again.
“Unlike most technology trends, which travel from West to East, this is a trend travelling from East to West,” says Trushar Barot, the BBC’s Mobile Editor. “And so I think it’s quite possible that within a year or two this user behaviour – which is sort of second-nature to people in Korea, Japan, South America – will travel westward and become second-nature to a lot of people in the West as well.”
Since receiving less than 1% of global web traffic in 2009, mobile’s share of traffic has boomed to 33.4% in 2015 – and about half of that growth has come in the past two years. In countries like Nigeria and India, over 70% of web traffic comes through mobile users
7. Analytics Evolution – key metrics for growing audiences from the newsroom
The use of data and analytics to guide newsroom has evolved significantly during the past year. Analytics are the instruments used to shed light on users’ behaviour and help newsrooms understand how their content travels, on and off-site. In 2014, the focus was on the search for a “gold metric” to help “read” audience behaviours. Large live-screens erected around newsrooms underlined the importance of pageviews, “attention minutes,” and time spent by people on content. And debates continued – on and offline – about the ethics of a metrics-driven newsroom.
Fast forward to 2015 and the processes have evolved considerably: pioneering newsrooms have now tasked a person or team with the responsibility of developing and growing audiences and integrating them into their editorial operations. Their focus is on joining the dots between the “how and when” of audience content consumption, to the newsroom’s workflows, and the role the numbers play in editorial decisions.
8. The Business of Gender – removing barriers to promotion and confronting online harassment
Leading from the top, forging alliances, flagging sexist practices, and providing training to help female journalists tackle ‘cybermisogyny’ are important steps being undertaken globally in an effort to achieve real progress in the struggle for gender equality and women’s empowerment in newsrooms.
Women are still dramatically under-represented behind editors’ desks, so the appointment of Katharine Viner as The Guardian’s first female editor in chief had women journalists across the globe fist-pumping in the direction of the glass ceiling. Meanwhile, at Bloomberg News, a transformation driven by a desire to improve editorial output and focus on the financial benefits of gender equality is underway.
9. Innovation in Small Newsrooms – inspiration from around the world
In recent years, economic pressures and technological developments, combined with a wave of new competitors and audiences who want content on-demand across multiple platforms, have forced newsrooms everywhere to undertake unprecedented levels of change.
Frequently, stories about innovation focus on developments from publishers such as The New York Times and The Guardian, and while these companies have an amazing record of achievements, there are many other news publishers around the world who are also undertaking efforts to inform and engage their audiences in new and intriguing ways.
In this chapter, we offer a selection of some of the enterprising efforts from smaller newsrooms that have come to our attention during the past year.
Note: Trends in Newsrooms is available to download free to World Editors Forum and WAN-IFRA members here.
WAN-IFRA, the global organisation for newspapers and news publishers, is a leading provider of industry research and analysis that identifies, analyses and publicises all important breakthroughs and opportunities that can benefit news media all over the world.
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