The allure of a finishable news experience

“Name me a paid-for news site with a payment method so easy that a new subscriber could sign up in less than five minutes while in a dark room after having consumed a few glasses of festive punch.”

1. Social storytelling

News organizations have been Storifying and embedding tweets for the past three or four years, and 2015 will see further experimentation around adding social elements to stories.

Some news sites may style social elements to fit with the design of their article pages, but an increasing number of outlets will try SAM, which launched a social storytelling feature at this year’s Online News Association conference.

sarah-marshallSAM, which started as a social asset management tool for newsrooms, has four templates. Here is an example of a gallery of tweets and here’s an example of the map template showing the location of tweets.

SAM is a powerful tool, allowing journalists to work collaboratively. It’s is a paid service, so it’s unlikely to become as widely used as Storify, but it’s promising in that it has a sustainable business model from the start. SAM recently made a top hire in recruiting AP’s user-generated content editor Fergus Bell. (And yes, we’re planning to experiment and use SAM embeds in Wall Street Journal articles.)

2. Finishable apps

With big national and global news outlets publishing hundreds of articles a day, the web offerings of news organizations are far from finishable.

I was interested to read author and entrepreneur Nir Eyal’s ideas on how to build habit-forming products. He discusses how people feel a sense of reward by completing a task, which encourages them to return again. Here’s a post I wrote on Medium on why social engagement, explainers, and finishable products are all key for getting news audiences hooked.

Yahoo News Digest, which launched at the start of this year, is one example of a finishable reading experience; The Economist’s recently launched Espresso, a daily app that takes about five minutes to read, is another. I predict there will be further launches of complete reading experiences in 2015.

3. Uber-inspired easy payment methods

It was at the end of a Christmas party that I realized how Uber has revolutionized payment from mobile phones. Guests started booking Uber taxis, with several people new to Uber and signing up for the first time.

The game-changing aspect is that Uber users get the option to adding their payment details by taking a photo of their bank card. The closing scene of the party was of a group people photographing their cards, signing up and sharing credit via promo codes.

Name me a paid-for news site that has a payment method so easy that a new subscriber could sign up in less than five minutes while in a dark room after having consumed a few glasses of festive punch.

4. The realization that Facebook drives more traffic than we thought

There’s been much discussion of late around the fact that some mystery “dark social” traffic to news sites is actually from Facebook. And Facebook has announced that it’s fixed a “bug” making it easier to track referral data.

I suspect that many news sites will get a surprise early in 2015 and realize that they get far more traffic from Facebook than they previously thought. That’s surely good for social media editors as we see a rise in social traffic.

5. Serializing podcasts

The success of Serial podcast will no doubt result in enthusiasm to present more stories in audio form. But James Ball from The Guardian makes a good point:

6. A social watermarking tool

While there are good watermarking tools (I like and Canva), I am hoping a super-simple option will be created in 2015, perhaps by Twitter.

Adding credits to photos bypasses the need to write a credit in a tweet, and with people downloading and re-uploading photos, a watermark means the credit travels with the image.

7. Further experiments in atomized news

There have been challengers to the inverted pyramid of a news story this decade. First there was liveblogging; more recently Circa created “atomized” news. Atoms can be quotes, stats, or facts, and journalists can create a story from the building blocks of previous articles, recycling the atoms. Next year will bring further forays into atomized storytelling, with CMSes developed to manage the constituent blocks.

8. Even more social video

Social videos that explain stories in animations in less than three minutes will continue to prove popular with audiences. (Here’s an example in #theshortanswer series, created by The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Bellini.)

9. More jobs in social newsgathering

Eyewitness reporting or UGC has really gathered pace this year, with reports from Kobani, Raqqa, and other areas dependent on eyewitnesses on the ground for information and images. This year also saw a sea change in how we work at The Wall Street Journal, with Storyful journalists now embedded in three of our newsrooms.

News organizations will grow in confidence in using images from social media in favor of agency pictures, understanding the audience sees beyond quality and appreciates the immediacy of a social image. There will be an increasing number of roles created in social newsgathering with core skills being search and verification.

10. More iTunes-for-news experiments

This year saw The New York Times invest in Blendle, an “iTunes for news” that sells content on a per-article basis. Next year will see further experimentation around micropayments and around an iTunes for news, Spotify for news, or Netflix for news, offering readers the chance to buy news articles from a range of providers.

Sarah Marshall is social media editor for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at The Wall Street Journal.