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We expand what (and how and who) we serve

“Next year will bring more problems, and with those problems a desire by news consumers for more solutions.”

This year we saw media companies help you register to vote; tell you how to stop climate change; vet charitable organizations for you after Hurricane Florence and the California fires; and connect readers with information about rental homes in Detroit.

Next year will bring more problems, and with those problems a desire by news consumers for more solutions. I predict that this audience demand, together with changes we are already seeing in journalism as it is taught and practiced, and the need of media companies to engage new audiences will extend service journalism to new verticals in 2019.

Product thinking becomes fully integrated

Embedding product thinking into newsrooms—that is, looking at journalism as a product that can solve problems for consumers—has already laid the groundwork for new topics and types of service journalism. Questions like “what problem are we trying to solve?” “for who?” and “what is the best way to do that?” are increasingly common at the start of newsroom projects. This approach will broaden the use of service journalism to more verticals and outlets as service oriented solutions will be considered earlier in editorial development.

Community journalism goes mainstream

Audience, social and community editors increasingly work with, report on, and solve problems for communities through their journalism. As these individuals rise in newsroom hierarchy, service journalism will gain prominence. Many academic programs and courses teach community journalism, which means there is both a top-down and bottom-up push for this methodology. This mainstreaming of community journalism helps ensure the questions and needs of audiences are front and center—a necessary element for service journalism to broaden to more topics.

The need and desire for audience diversity

A study from the BBC found that “64 percent of under 35s want news to provide solutions to problems.” Other studies have found that women can benefit from a positive framing of the news. Underserved audiences, in combination with a need and desire by various outlets to diversify their audience, will accelerate the use of different approaches to journalism and reporting. And (you guessed it!) service journalism is likely to be one of the formats used to appeal to these audiences and build trust.

Neither service journalism nor journalism as a service is a new idea. But in the coming year, service journalism will move beyond product recommendations and smarter living. In 2019, we’ll see service journalism improve social services, create additional civic engagement, and change business practices. We may even see publications offer toolkits on running for political office or a how to guide for fixing capitalism.

Alyssa Zeisler is the audience managing editor at Barron’s.

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