2
0
1
9

When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

“Every time a free tool goes freemium or a platform closes because it can’t make money, we’ve got an issue. What’s going to happen to the stories that tool feeds?”

A better understanding of the value of owning your digital assets — and having an exit strategy from a tool that could disappear — will only get more crucial over the next year.

Our ability to prove our work in a time when the accuracy and veracity of our output is being challenged is something every newsroom leader, and journalist, should be thinking about. And gaps in our interactives and story elements aren’t going to help us with that at all.

At the time we were writing this prediction, an email came from Google telling us Google Fusion Tables was being closed down — or “turned down,” as they nicely put it. The tool had reached the grand old age of 9 and Google says that they’ve developed more suitable tools during that time.

They’ve made it clear how to get your data back and will be adding Google Fusion Tables data to the Takeout tool early next year to allow a user to export all of their data at once before the final shuttering next December.

That’s useful, but it will still lead to the demise of a large number of interactives which have been embedded in news stories — its own form of link rot. And it’s also going to hit the training of the next generation of journalists, because its simplicity made Fusion Tables a good introduction to data for student journalists. Many educators, including us, have used it in classes, and Fusion Tables visualizations have ended up in young journalists’ portfolios.

This isn’t a new issue: Every time a free tool goes freemium or a platform closes because it can’t make money, we’ve got an issue. What’s going to happen to the stories that tool feeds? It also affects the digital memory of the news communities we serve. We saw it with the closure of Storify — a great way to thread social media content, yes, but a great big hole in a news page when it died.

This embed death is something that we’ve been thinking about for a while. We ran into a problem while doing some social media research back in 2014 when ScraperWiki’s API access was suspended. We’d already started our work, and that made us start to seriously think about exit strategies, saving content, and both dead links and dead code.

Here at Cardiff University, we’ve been teaching journalists to code as part of the syllabus since 2013 when we launched our MSc in Computational and Data Journalism. We get our students to use version control software to archive and maintain their projects. It’s about time we did something similar with the contents of our stories, particularly those based on third-party tools.

There are two key issues at play. The first is the danger of the magpie approach to journalism innovation. Julia Posetti of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has looked at journalism’s fascination with “bright, shiny things” and its implications for sustainable development. And it’s true — lots of conversation at industry conferences is around how we can use a certain tool to deliver a new experience, often without worrying much about its potential lifespan.

The second is how reliant we can be on free tools, and how we need to plan for proper archival and ensuring content that is in our long tail of clicks stays useful. Again, this isn’t a new issue, but there are some great ideas from Meredith Broussard on techniques to work with in the new beta version of the Data Journalism Handbook.

And what about information that isn’t stored digitally? Leaks in institutional memory aren’t a new thing; whenever a seasoned veteran leaves a newsroom, there’s a loss of information that can’t easily be recaptured. Is there an opportunity here for turning one of our latest shiny things — machine learning — loose on our archives to create a proper digital newsroom asset?

Here’s hoping we see more thought about this area being put into action across next year.

Glyn Mottershead is a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture and Martin Chorley is a senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Informatics at Cardiff University.

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

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

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

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

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

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

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

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

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

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

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

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

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

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

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

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Juleyka Lantigua   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

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

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

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

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

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

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

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

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

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

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

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

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

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

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

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

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

Kevin D. Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

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

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

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

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

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

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

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

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

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

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

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

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

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

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

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

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

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

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Hearken   Pivot to people

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

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

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

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

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

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

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Joshua P. Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

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

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

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

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

J. Siguru Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

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

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

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

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

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

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

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

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you