2
0
1
9

Journalism as a technology service

“Over the years, journalists have innovated narrowly, focusing on how stories look rather than what journalism can do.”

When journalists think about digital innovation, we mostly think in experiences and attention: What does the story look like? How do we attract people to see it?

But what if we think about what journalism does? Not just through storytelling, but through technology services that do things and solve problems. As author Clayton Christensen calls them, “jobs to be done.”

There’s certainly lots to do. Complicated global problems like mis- and disinformation, climate change, information warfare, and the erosion of privacy are creating new “jobs” that companies and consumers will pay to get done.

Journalism’s strengths map increasingly well to help solve these important problems. For example, journalists are particularly adept at digging up news, evaluating fuzzy data, gut-checking unusual developments, evaluating sources, verifying the facts, making sense of what’s happening, and synthesizing what’s important. Journalism is also mission-driven and it excels at fairness, honesty, and transparency.

This creates new opportunities — new imperatives — to employ journalism’s know-how and ethics as technology services.

Understanding services

When we think about software as a service (SaaS), we often think of companies like Slack (collaboration), Urban Airship (push notifications) and Chartbeat (analytics).

These technology services help you do things that would be too difficult, costly, or time-consuming to do yourself. They make work easier and help you get more done. A new crop of SaaS companies use machine learning to pore through data and identify opportunities, efficiencies, and risks that humans can’t detect alone.

While people often question why they should pay for content, they’re more accustomed to paying for services. When you accomplish something valuable — especially if it can be measured — people will pay for it. The business model is baked in from the beginning.

Facts as a service

When BreakingNews.com and the Breaking News app were shut down at the end of 2016, we had made a surprising discovery. While we had created Breaking News as a consumer experience, many of the world’s largest organizations used it as a service.

We knew journalists were fans of Breaking News — it was on their newsroom monitors and on their phones — but we were surprised to discover a big adjacent market of enterprise users in corporate security, crisis response, communications, transportation, and other sectors.

They relied on our real-time verification and notifications to help protect people, anticipate disruptions, and identify emerging risks. They manually tied it into their workflows and trusted it to make mission-critical decisions during shootings, wildfires, and global unrest, like evacuating stores or diverting employee travel.

Companies told us they wanted it back with new enterprise features — and they were willing to pay an annual subscription fee. A few months later, we filed the paperwork to incorporate a new company called Factal.

Journalism as technology

After running dozens of beta tests, we learned that simply publishing and selling news as a subscription wasn’t enough. This is not just a content subscription business. We needed to make data-driven products that enabled companies — big companies with massive global footprints and increasingly automated systems — to act immediately when a news event posed a risk to their business.

So we doubled-down on the technology, delving into machine learning and the mechanics of signal detection, geolocation, and verification. Here are three ways we put journalism to work in creating a technology service:

  • Combine journalists and technology together in real-time workflows. We assembled a newsroom of top-notch journalists and designed technology to make them faster and more impactful than ever.
  • Infuse journalistic know-how into platforms, algorithms, and products. We’ve learned a lot over the years about detecting news, vetting sources, verifying and geolocating content, identifying important developments, building news communities, etc., and we’re converting much of this know-how into code.
  • Instill journalism’s mission and ethics in all aspects of the business. Our mission is to help protect people from harm, and we created a code of ethics not only for our news coverage but also for how we do business.

After more than a year of work, Factal launched in October, transitioning from an ad-driven news experience to a trusted technology service powered by journalism. By building Factal as a service, we’re building an economic foundation that fuels our journalism in the years to come.

Broadening beyond stories to services

Journalism is uniquely suited to tackle the world’s most vexing problems — the erosion of facts and the accelerating effects of climate change — not just through stories, but increasingly through technology services.

But suffering from innovation fatigue and faced with extraordinary news cycles, many newsrooms have retreated even more to their core. With the exception of a handful of big-branded news organizations, the industry continues its economic decline while technology services thrive.

Over the years, journalists have innovated narrowly, focusing on how stories look rather than what journalism can do. When Waze steers you around a traffic accident, isn’t that a journalism service? When Alexa answers a question about a current event? When Ring or NextDoor alerts you to a nearby crime?

By taking a broader approach to innovation, there’s a tremendous opportunity to leverage journalism’s strengths to do new things through technology. To do jobs that people will pay for. To solve big problems and make a difference in our increasingly dangerous, disorienting world.

Cory Bergman is cofounder and vice president of product at Factal.

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

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

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

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

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

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

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

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

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

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

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

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

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Hearken   Pivot to people

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

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

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

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

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

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

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

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

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

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

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

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

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

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

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

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

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

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

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

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

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

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

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

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

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

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

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

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

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

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

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

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

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

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

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

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

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

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

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

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

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

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

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

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

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

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

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

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

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

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

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

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

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

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

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