Crowdsourcing the future of news

“The news industry. Well, everyone’s going to be getting the news on their phones. I don’t know. Huh.”

melody-kramerI usually make all of my work public and transparent and involve the audience on a daily basis (on Twitter and on the Social Sandbox). So when Nieman Lab asked me to make a news industry prediction for 2015, I decided this should be no different: I emailed 40 people who don’t work in news and asked for their 2015 news predictions. I also asked Facebook and Twitter. Here are some of the responses I got, as well as my own at the end:

  • Nick Disabato, a designer from Chicago: “More and more, news outlets are relying on third-party traffic sources, like search engines and social media, for most of their readership. As a result, readers have become more flighty, less likely to support a specific outlet for long. I bet you’re going to see a lot of organizations live or die by their ability to communicate beyond their own immediate purview.”
  • Rob Shore, a videographer in D.C.: “While budgets continue to thin for content creation in general, as technology gets cheaper and know how gets deeper, talking heads, data visualization, and the combination of the two will become more and more of a priority.”
  • Christine Eriksen, an avid knitter and account manager in Philly: “I am always looking for news written or curated by people of color and/or women. Additionally, I think that television news is untrustworthy and from the white/male perspective. There is a lot of momentum in the black community about news and how people of color are presented. Though, of course, this will be a slow change, in 2015 we will see more non-white perspectives finding their own way to deliver the news.”

    Additionally, since Serial is the podcast that has broken the Internet lately, it has shown me that people are starting to take podcasts and content exclusively created for the Internet seriously who hadn’t before. This combination will create a new way of delivering news by people who can now deliver their stories from their world for little to no money.”

  • Christopher Brown, a psychologist who works with the military in Fairbanks, Alaska: “I predict that Vice News will become a major player, based on getting access to interviews and embeds that others avoid, don’t think of, or are denied.”
  • Matt Crespi, a public policy Ph.D. student who lives in Pittsburgh, sent me six lengthy predictions. My favorite was this one: “Headlines will get dumber. For 10 reasons why this is true, plus a special bonus reason that will leave you speechless, click here.” (The rest of Matt’s predictions are here.)
  • Alyssa Dingwall, an avid baker in Connecticut: “Audiences will be the largest challenge the news industry faces in 2015. Readers are fickle, and want stories that are comprehensive yet concise, and they want them immediately. Now that more and more companies are entering the industry, every entity will have to fight to get and keep readers interested and coming back.”
  • Ben Novack, a software engineer in Philadelphia: “My prediction is that news will get a lot worse before it gets better. What I mean by that: I don’t think anyone’s on the verge of actually figuring out a new business model (i.e., not overwhelmingly ad-dependent) for news that’s sustainable and rewards actual news instead of playing nice with the folks who pay the bills (i.e., advertisers.) We’ll see a lot more ‘native advertising’ and similar skeeviness that will continue to degrade the trustworthiness of major news organizations. We’ll continue to see a lot of really cool ideas about how to present news and pull information out of raw data; we’ll see no real advances in how to sustainably fund those ideas.”
  • Zack Noyce, a librarian in Salt Lake City: “I predict there will be at least two widely-shared articles each declaring the following: (1) we are living in the golden age of podcasting and (2) the podcast moment is over. And WAY too much ink will be spilled debating whether Stephen Colbert is the messiah of network late night or he never should have left Comedy Central.”
  • Robyn Kramer, who is my mom and lives in South Jersey: “I think people my age are going to figure out how to use that Twitter. I still can’t figure it out. You know what cracks me up? When people start following me. I only answer you. I don’t even know how to make it tweet. It’s clear that genetics didn’t play a role in your career choice.”
  • And Neil Kramer, who is my dad and doesn’t really use computers: “You ask hard questions. Mom is laughing. The news industry. Well, everyone’s going to be getting the news on their phones. I don’t know. Huh. What’s happening with the news industry? Give me a hint. Let’s see. Um, the news, I’m happy with it but it’s too repetitive right now, but that’s not a prediction. What’s on at 6:00 is on at 7:00 and is on at 11:00. They don’t update. Mom says I’m going to watch the news less often because it’s so repetitive. I’m watching it less.”
  • As for my predictions for 2015, I say three things:

    Someone’s going to develop a better (and hopefully open source) audio format than MP3 that will allow people to assess how and when people are listening to audio — meaning everyone won’t have to develop their own proprietary players to collect data about their audience.

    News organizations will realize — even more so than they do now — that aggregation is considerably cheaper than content creation, and will devote considerable resources towards aggregating the work of their peers, thus making it more even difficult to hear newer or different voices, because everyone will be rehashing each other’s work.

    And a hopeful prediction:

    We will not judge our audiences for consuming the news in a different way that we do, realizing that the more we include the audience in our process, the better our news gathering will be.

    Melody Kramer is a digital strategist and editor at NPR and an upcoming 2015 Visiting Nieman Fellow.