The last few years have been a hell of a ride for people who sit at the intersection of news and technology. We’ve expanded to new platforms. We’ve experimented with new devices. We’ve tried new storytelling concepts and found ways to leverage our communities for good.
The bigger! better! faster! more! thrill of it all is exhilarating — and gives me a lot of hope for all of the avenues for news in the brave new world. But lately, I find myself drawn back to the homefront, focused on one question:
How can I bottle our core identity as a brand and have its essence shine through all of our experiences, off-platform and on?
Voice was once solely an editorial endeavor. Decisions about what to cover and how to cover it defined a news organization’s identity. But today, what we have to say is only one part of who we are. Our consumers know us by the design choices we make, the frequency and character of our push alerts, what we do on social, how we monetize, how we market, and which technologies and platforms we choose to pursue.
These aren’t just product, distribution, or strategy decisions. Together, all of these add up to our identity, our voice in the world where our consumers find us. For too many years, these very real choices were afterthoughts in a lot of news organizations, decisions we made passively when we couldn’t resource some opportunity or another.
In 2017, let’s own these choices actively. It’s time to center ourselves on what we want our unique organizations to be and how we aim to serve our audiences. We have years of experimentation at our backs and the wisdom to know the game will keep changing. But a coherence of identity throughout all of the decisions we make will help our brands mean something in the minds of our audiences. Meaning something is the first step to being vital. And being vital is essential if we want our voices to endure.
Julia Beizer is head of product at The Huffington Post.