2
0
1
9

It’s time to understand the un-audience

“In addition to asking ‘why do people consume news?’ we need to ask (without judgment) ‘why don’t people consume news?'”

Not everyone consumes news (gasp!). Despite living in a media age with near constant streams of news coming from multiple sources and devices, there’s a segment of the population that consumes little to no news.

Now, I should preface this prediction by saying I have a very open notion of what constitutes “news” — I’m sure my definition would make many people cringe and would not be their own. And, yet, even with a more flexible measurement of news, there are still people anchoring the very low end of the news consumption continuum.

My prediction for 2019: The time has come to better understand the segment of people who are not the news audience, who are the news un-audience. Several years ago, I estimated that about 20 percent of the U.S. adults were what I described as “News Avoiders.” More recently, I found the habit of news avoidance predates adulthood, with 50 percent of U.S. teenagers (ages 12 to 17) reporting very low exposure to any type of news.

Why is studying the news un-audience important? One answer is that news organizations need news audiences. If half of U.S. teenagers are News Avoiders, and that doesn’t change when they reach adulthood, it’s problematic for the long-term survival of the news industry. In more immediate terms, News Avoiders reflect a potential audience-growth strategy for select news organizations.

A second answer is that democracy needs news consumers. News avoidance is related to several negative democratic outcomes. In both studies I mentioned, it was News Avoiders who exhibited the lowest levels of participation across a variety of political and community-based activities. It was their voices, their concerns, and their help that was largely absent. For all the important differences in the types of news that people do consume, the fact remains that being a news consumer is related to civic and political participation.

So here we are. How to better understand the un-audience? It requires reframing the question. In addition to asking “why do people consume news?” we need to ask (without judgment) “why don’t people consume news?” These are different questions that yield different insights. What drives people toward news is not the same as what drives them away. Understanding the un-audience requires going beyond demographics. For example, what does it mean for education level to play a role in unequal news consumption? What is education a proxy for, really? Is it capturing the struggle to understand the language of news, the types of jobs people have (and thus the relevance and time for news consumption), or maybe the different sharing networks people are embedded in?

The un-audience can be tricky to understand, especially for those of us who regularly consume news and work in news-related fields. I see the puzzled look on many of my (journalism) students’ faces when I ask them why people don’t consume news — it’s difficult for them to imagine these people even exist. It’s a much easier task to brainstorm the many reasons people consume news. This is why studying the un-audience for news is so important. If the goal of audience insight is to understand the psychology of news consumption so that we can be more effective storytellers, innovators, and designers, then this insight needs to also include the psychology of news avoidance.

I will end this prediction with one potential jumping off point. Through my own research, I have found one belief to be a particularly powerful explanation of news avoidance. It’s the belief that “news is not made for someone like me.”

In 2019, let’s see if we can change that.

Stephanie Edgerly is an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Hearken   Pivot to people

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions