Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Medium partners with publications like The Awl and Fusion, and more native ads are on the way
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE

Breaking audio out of radio’s boundaries

“Our news reports and stories increasingly will be produced and packaged in forms divorced from the formats dictated by a radio clock.”

What do I think 2014 will bring for the future of news?

You can detect the near-term future in what we can see with our own eyes right now. When I was an editor at The New York Times, I gradually watched the newspapers on my morning train commute give way to smartphones and tablets. The opportunities that created were vast (viz The Times’s digital subscriptions and incredible interactives), but so was the new competition (viz Fruit Ninja and Candy Crush, as well as The Guardian and Mail Online).

jim-schachterNow that I’m a public radio suit, vice president for news at WNYC, what I can see is that every other person — or more, maybe — is commuting with earbuds in. The competition is abundant (viz Robin Thicke or last night’s episode of Homeland), yet the opportunity for those of us who tell our stories in audio form is just as real.

So I predict that what you’ll be seeing in 2014 is that forward-thinking radio news organizations will be making an all-out assault on the earbud-wearing masses. You can call that a “mobile-first audio strategy”; I’m sure there are PowerPoint slides out there somewhere that do. But what it means is that our news reports and stories increasingly will be produced and packaged in forms divorced from the formats dictated by a radio clock.

Big audiences still want to listen to an hour of Morning Edition or All Things Considered, but a whole other big audience wants to hear news stories and talk-show segments as standalone reports: in our app or some other audio app, directly in their Twitter feed, in playlists of their own creation or playlists generated by an algorithm that takes into account their listening habits. That means that, as producers, we will need to create new formats and develop new workflows so that our reporting quickly — and satisfyingly — reaches listeners who don’t already listen to us on the radio or download our podcasts, like On the Media or New Tech City.

I guess I’m predicting more work for me and my colleagues. But I’m also predicting bigger audiences than ever for high-quality audio journalism.

Jim Schachter is vice president of news at WNYC in New York.

Updating regularly through Friday, December 20
What to read next
What happened after 7 news sites got rid of reader comments
Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, The Week, Mic, The Verge, and USA Today’s FTW have all shut off reader comments in the past year. Here’s how they’re all using social media to encourage reader discussion.
699Facebook woos journalists with Signal, a dashboard to gather news across Facebook and Instagram
Signal helps journalists find, source, and embed content from Facebook and Instagram.
672Get AMP’d: Here’s what publishers need to know about Google’s new plan to speed up your website
The speed gains are very real. But do publishers want to trade in the open space of what we’ve known as the web for yet another platform they have little control over?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Economist
SF Appeal
Voice of San Diego
The Times of London
The Guardian
Investigative News Network