Nieman Foundation at Harvard
How YouTube’s recommendations pull you away from news
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Becoming more agile

“Audience engagement techniques will begin shifting away from the mindset of ‘What can they do for us?’ to ‘What can we do for them?'”

I admit it: My media consumption has perhaps been at an all-time low this past year. That’s not because incredible work hasn’t been made and made ridiculously, easily accessible. It’s just that at the end of very long days and longer weeks, the thought at jumping online to see what everyone else has been making, too, has for whatever reason, not been the most compelling thought. Sleep (and watching Breaking Bad) have been.

Thus, rather than grasping to identify a pattern or trend for which I’ve only glimpsed shadows, I’m going to hit you with two kinds of predictions: the ones I really hope will transpire and micro-predictions I know for sure will.

The hopeful predictions (a.k.a. please steal these ideas and do them)


  • Newsrooms will pattern themselves increasingly after the tech sector, taking on methods of agile development.
  • An industry leader or two will move from concentrating on distributing content to distributing innovation. They’ll task themselves with figuring out the necessary conditions to allow for space innovation within their own shops and/or allow a sandbox of sorts for outside collaborations. This space will be budgeted for and protected by allotting time for experiments to truly run their course. There will be a plan in place for what “running their course” actually means and how to measure success.
  • Newsrooms will try more collaborations across departments and beats. Like pairing up reporters on seemingly unrelated beats and tasking them with finding stories that intersect both areas of their expertise. Or holding gatherings to showcase the most exciting stories, apps, films, etc. that employees have seen or made and then figure out what worked and why.
  • Independent, entrepreneurial storytellers with cultivated audiences will continue to scare the crap out of those holding tight to traditional business models.
  • New positions in newsrooms will crop up, with titles like API strategist, animator, and civic app acquisitions manager.
  • Newsrooms will acquire one of every popular phone, tablet, and phablet so reporters and developers can test how their content looks and responds on every device.
  • Newsrooms will institute something like 20-percent time (as Google does, or did?) to allow employees the sanctified time to figure something out, try something new, or consume stories that inspire them in their work.
  • Audience engagement techniques will begin shifting away from the mindset of “What can they do for us?” to “What can we do for them?”

The pretty-sure-thing micro-predictions

  • A hungry journalist will be desperate for a snack on a late-night deadline and steal someone else’s food from the community fridge, spurring two all-staff emails and aggressive new signage around the kitchen.
  • A board member will say “just use email newsletters” as the way to bundle and disseminate content, and it will, in a way, make a lot of sense.
  • Making newsroom apps and responsive sites will take 37 percent longer and cost 37 percent more as developers have to make everything work and look good not only for the major browsers but also for dozens of phones and tablets and phablets.
  • Someone will use the word “transmedia” incorrectly.
  • Someone will invent a new word to essentially mean “transmedia.”
  • An API will change shortly after a giant investigation pulling from multiple APIs is published.
  • An executive will make the decision to try to fund a new and necessary venture through Kickstarter and it will not make its goal.
  • A native ad will have unfortunate placement, resulting in a lawsuit.
  • A journalist will complain of too many sugary treats to celebrate colleagues’ birthdays and milestones, yet be visibly disappointed when a healthy alternative is offered.
  • The BuzzFeedification and Upworthiness of headlines will spread to a seemingly “above that” legacy news operation.
  • There will not actually be “an app for that” — instead, a responsive website.

Jennifer Brandel is senior producer of WBEZ’s Curious City, which she created in 2012 after being chosen as one of 10 productions to form the Localore initiative of the Association of Independents in Radio.

Updating regularly through Friday, December 20