Self-help as a publishing strategy

“There is no blueprint for these sorts of projects, because they are built on personality and trust. One size does not fit all. They require building a content feedback loop that requires dedication and resources.”

Engagement projects, interactive journalism, multi-platform storytelling…whatever you want to call it, more media brands will try to deepen their relationship with the consumer in a self-helpy kind of way.

In 2017, The New York Times’ Smarter Living saw further success with its How-To Guides, Mozilla and Tactical Tech rolled out their Data Detox kit, and Axios partnered with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global for a sleep survey. Other variations included Quartz’s texting app and ABC News’ Dan Harris with his 10% Happier side gig.

In 2018, look for more journalism outlets to attempt to insert themselves into consumers’ lives via daily newsletters, apps, or texts that ask for feedback in the form of stories and/or data.

But engagement producer beware: There is no blueprint for these sorts of projects, because they are built on personality and trust. One size does not fit all. They require building a content feedback loop that requires dedication and resources.

Tim Ferriss and Gretchen Rubin have done this sort of hybrid memoir/journalism for years. They began by tackling their own personal problems (how to be happier? how to work less?) and then using the answers they found to provide their readers with clear, actionable steps.

I’ve found my own success with these projects in large part by enlisting the audience in experimenting with solutions to modern struggles like coping with information overload, changing digital habits, and protecting our online identity.

Two things I’d like to see conquered next: scaling these projects while maintaining the personalized touch they require, and using project results as proof of need/concept to advocate for systemic change.

Manoush Zomorodi is host of the WNYC podcast Note to Self.

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