Making it easy

“It’s not about dumbing down or giving up on context — it’s about learning a new grammar that works on a small screen in a distributed world.”

From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, most people check their phones incessantly, whether they’re in work meetings, a supermarket, a bus, a bar, or the bathroom. And while they’re reading, watching, listening, messaging, liking, or sharing, they’re also being bombarded with notifications of different kinds. Now, on top of that, they’re being told that a lot of it is untrustworthy.

nathalie-malinarichSo spare a thought for the audience. How do they make sense of what to consume, what to tap on, what to follow, and what to share? And how do we, in news, make sure they engage with our content and stay loyal to us?

A minority of people are willing to put effort into finding and consuming news. Most people give up after the first or second hurdle — too many taps, too cryptic a headline, too slow to load, too difficult to read; unless they’re really committed, they’re on to the next thing. On mobile, there are too many alternatives, too many distractions, too much competition for people’s attention.

Facebook has shown how frictionless, effortless video leads to incredible viewing figures — we need to make news consumption as easy elsewhere. Everywhere. In apps, web pages, articles, videos, notifications, and chatbots, ease of use is key.

This is why Mic’s new app is so interesting — pushing rich-media notifications to a user’s lockscreen without the need for them to actually open the app. The battle for the lockscreen is on, and in 2017 more news organizations will be finding more sophisticated ways of pushing their content to phone screens, learning from users’ preferences and tailoring accordingly.

Chatbots have yet to make news consumption easier in messaging apps. In most cases, they replicate existing functions, but require more effort for the user. Similarly, voice services like Alexa can make tasks like getting the weather or listening to music very simple, but not yet news. I doubt many people will have the patience to ask or answer more than three questions to get some newspaper headlines read out to them.

But chatbots and voice-activated assistants will get better and cleverer. News organizations will have to learn to harness their content, expertise, and archives to answer users’ questions and offer truly personalized news services.

It’s not all about new technology and great UX. For those producing the news, this means changes too. Headlines, summaries, and images, always important, are now more so than ever. If they don’t grab the user on a lockscreen or a chat app, that user is gone. How do we communicate simply why a piece should be read or a video watched? It’s not about dumbing down or giving up on context — it’s about learning a new grammar that works on a small screen in a distributed world.

Finally, as our news feeds are filled with stories about fake news, maybe 2017 is the year we work out how to signal to the audience (and, crucially, the major platforms that carry news) that our journalism is trustworthy, without putting the onus on them to do the research.

Nathalie Malinarich is mobile editor for BBC News.

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Trushar Barot   API or die

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Andy Rossback   The year of the user