2
0
1
9

We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

“Our shorter-form stories have done well digitally — but the big surprise to us over the past year has been just how strongly our longer-form journalism has resonated with digital audiences.”

The speed of news moved faster than ever this year, at times threatening to induce whiplash among traditional and digital audiences alike. But here at Frontline, we’re finding that, despite how swiftly news cycles come and go and how rapid the pace of breaking news has become, the appetite for in-depth journalism and context isn’t shrinking. It’s growing. Even in the face of algorithm shifts at platforms like Facebook, serious investigative stories are being met with an expanding and enthusiastic digital audience.

For some time, many in the journalism space have equated the digital news environment with shortened attention spans. “What works on digital” was assumed to be shorter, quicker hits — and to some degree, we had that assumption at Frontline. But at the same time, we remained committed to our documentaries both on air and online.

I’m a proponent of a “right-form” approach to journalism — the idea of thinking about how to tell stories from the outset in terms of video vs. audio vs. text, short-form vs. long-form, whatever the right form for the journalism may be. Our shorter-form stories have done well digitally — but the big surprise to us over the past year has been just how strongly our longer-form journalism has resonated with digital audiences.

We’ve seen this play out in a big way through our work on The Frontline Transparency Project — our ongoing effort to open up our reporting and make the source material that goes into building our journalism available and easily sharable. What we’ve done is about as in-depth as it gets: publishing dozens of extended video and text interviews digitally. We wanted to do this to build trust with our audience and to offer an antidote to the prevailing skepticism about the media today.

It was an earnest idea. But as it turns out, it also ended up being an audience one: In the past year, digital viewers watched over 100 million minutes of our video interviews drawn from Frontline’s The Putin Files, one of our biggest Transparency Project installments yet. And they weren’t just watching for a minute or two. They average nearly 40 minutes per session.

That interest in our Transparency Project wasn’t an outlier. We’ve seen a 46 percent year-over-year growth in the number of streams for our documentaries themselves. And the first season of our investigative narrative podcast, The Frontline Dispatch, earned over a million downloads.

What this tells me is that, despite the constant flood of tweets, sound bites, and headlines, people are hungry for context and journalism that goes deeper. People are busier than ever and saturated with information. But there’s a real need that is being answered by in-depth reporting and storytelling. We’re seeing this at Frontline, but audiences are also seeking out longer-form stories everywhere from Netflix’s serialized documentaries, to ESPN with OJ: Made in America, to A&E with The Clinton Affair.

Frontline is making a bet that even — especially — in this rapid-fire news ecosystem, in-depth, context-rich journalism will find growing digital audiences. In the coming year, we’ll see more and more news outlets finding success with deeply reported digital stories — and we’ll find that perhaps this is the sort of experience digital has actually been meant for all along.

Raney Aronson-Rath is executive producer of Frontline.

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

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

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

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

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

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

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

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

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

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

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

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

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

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

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

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

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

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

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

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

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

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

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

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

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

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

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

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

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

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

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

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

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

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

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

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

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

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

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

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

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

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

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

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

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

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

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

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

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

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

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

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

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

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

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

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

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

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

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

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

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

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

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

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

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

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

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

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media