The audience is the source and the story

“People who normally wouldn’t tell their stories will now have their own audience, who will continue to serve as a ‘newsworthy’ litmus test.”

While scrolling through my news feed a few weeks ago, I saw Facebook post with a few hundred shares. The woman who wrote the post shared a photo of her engagement ring, and told the kind of heartwarming story that excites viral news editors to no end: While she and her husband picked out a modest $130 ring at the store, a stranger made a rude comment about the size. Her post shared this story, with commentary on our toxic wedding culture. About a week later, almost every major news outlet covered the story.

mandy-velezThe idea of user-generated content is nothing new. But UGC becoming the source, and regarded as news content for digital publishers, is something I predict we’ll see a lot more of in 2017. We won’t just get audiences’ or commenters’ opinions on topics and whip up a quick list. Brands will rely more on “trending” stories, or stories that the public themselves deem newsworthy, when weighing what to cover. Plenty of teams have trending editors already, but thanks to the growth of social as a news tool, the practice is becoming less of a strategy for pageviews or viral “quick hits,” but a necessity to the newsgathering process.

A prime example of this is after the election, when the private Facebook group filled with progressive Hillary Clinton supporters dubbed Pantsuit Nation began ramping up. People posted everything from their personal feelings to reports of hate crimes. Then a woman shared a photo of herself and Hillary Clinton taking a walk. That post wasn’t just a viral photo, it became news: This was one of the few and first public sightings of Clinton. The post made headlines once again. Social accounts began to pop up after that titled “HRC in the Wild,” which allowed the public to post pictures of Clinton out and about.

Twitter’s hashtag trend kicked off this era of UGC-as-news, but with Facebook’s Signal, more Facebook groups created to give the public a voice (i.e. Pantsuit Nation, Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash), and even the early-detection tweet mining tool Dataminr gaining popularity, people who normally wouldn’t tell their stories will now have their own audience, who will continue to serve as a “newsworthy” litmus test.

In 2017, journalists will not only will take this new way of newsgathering seriously, but create strategies and even teams to involve UGC in their process more than ever before.

Mandy Velez is editorial director of Revelist.

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

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

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

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

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

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

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

Trushar Barot   API or die

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

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

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

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

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

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

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

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

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact