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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

The supercuts of our lives

“In 2013, Instagram will become even more like Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, as television news screenshots and mugshots mix with picnic tableaux.”

Rise of the storytelling sites: 2013 should be an interesting year for online narrative, with Ev Williams’ Medium asking members to post around a prompt and Jonathan Harris’ open-ended Cowbird. One of Cowbird’s many features is the “retelling” — similar to reblogging on Tumblr — and a “serendipity” option that encourages those in the site to wander. News sites haven’t nailed integrating readers’ emotional response to stories yet, so storytelling is the new geo- and may be layered on, then integrated, then ultimately no longer a feature in a few years.

Explainers: Moving beyond mansplaining, explainers prefacing sections and breaking events will include more links to different outlets’ coverage. Timelines will be prettier and less likely to crash a browser. Data journalism will continue to show, not tell stories, perhaps with cheekier names à la NPR’s election Big Board. The desire for interactive graphics with a high human resource cost will continue to stymie leaner news organizations.

We Tumblr for you: Editorial tone remains critical to success on external content platforms; queueing up timely posts for optimal reader sharing and transparency around the identity of hosts/curators/sherpas will hold strong as social strategies to build news brand trust in 2013.

The supercuts of our lives: Is this what listicle content diets roll up into? The interest in Timehop and One Second Everyday app suggests that our tenuous grasp on ephemeral personal data collected on mobile in 2012 still needs to be managed, and that content filters continue to feature either a same-day parameter or same-year goalposts.

In 2013, clustering data points in news may lead further into clustering content in all formats including video on a given topic page. Cable news supercuts will go forth from “The Daily Show” and prosper in truth-telling assists, debunking hoax photos, assertions, and Morgan Freeman quotations.

Cameras and crossposting: Much of 2012 has been about pulling photos out of Instagram (not as easy until the web profiles launched), sorting photos into meaningful sets (try Swirl), and returning to update Flickr contacts, with the launch of a robust mobile app as a holiday gift. For journalism, the Flickr refresh means many more recent photos to pull from within the full spectrum of Creative Commons licenses. In 2013, Instagram will become even more like Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, as television news screenshots and mugshots mix with picnic tableaux. Stenography aligns with steganography.

Ain’t no party like a GIF party: During the Olympics, GIF guides (especially of the U.S. gymnastics team from The Atlantic’s Elspeth Reeve) were the best way to catch big moments, as NBC’s televised coverage followed a time-delayed, prime-time programming schedule from the “Mad Men” era; even as spoilers, the best GIF medleys were highlight reels that prefigured YouTube clips. During the U.S. elections, GIFs were a way to participate in political memes. The overabundance of political GIFs during debate nights filled Tumblr dashboards (Facebook doesn’t support gifs) and the GIFs that spread widest were a useful gauge of interest in a certain political position or expression. For journalists in 2013, GIFs may continue their annotating march as a tl;dr nod preceding longer features.

Slowed journalism: While slow journalism is a reaction to the accelerated news cycle, the nearer term may see wide journalism, as outlets try to throttle search results by covering every angle of a story. Throttling infrastructure capabilities, super weather storms will continue in 2013, downing servers and upping fail aquaculture of all sizes — to say nothing of repressive governments flipping off the Internet switch when their citizens’ voices conflict with their agenda.

As Anil Dash points out, if a certain global web service is your entire online experience, or even if two or three together are your online world (remember the late June storm that knocked out the Northern Virginia Amazon data center for Instagram, Pinterest, and Heroku?), when those sites go offline, and especially when the outage isn’t related to your local weather, then you are fresh out of Internet. Maybe in 2013, we will finally learn how to play nice.

Kristen Taylor is senior editor of open reporting at The Huffington Post and leads their Off The Bus and Firsthand projects. She is founder and editor of Saucy Magazine, an independent food and story print quarterly.