Human-centered journalism

“It’s time for news on the internet to stop looking and reading like a digital newspaper from the 1990s.”

It’s time for news publishers to realize that human-centered design doesn’t just apply to the design of media products. In 2021, news publishers will realize that reporting and storytelling must be driven by a deeper understanding of audience needs — not just audience interest. And we’ll see publishers employ business models for different audience segments — also grounded in user research.

In the new year, newsrooms will realize:

  • that a new decade necessitates new modes of storytelling;
  • that journalism must take into account their audiences’ perspectives and understanding; and
  • that different consumers need different ways to pay for news.

It’s time for news on the internet to stop looking and reading like a digital newspaper from the 1990s. The internet allows us to tell stories in more compelling ways. In 2021, new and existing news organizations will start investing in new kinds of audience research that will lead to new storytelling forms and experiences. Using iterative approaches and rapidly maturing AI tools, a combination of personalization and multi-sensory storytelling will transform the average article experience.

Newsrooms also need to acknowledge the different ways their varied audiences — varied by race, class, education, or other characteristics — perceive news. Instead of demanding a singular, homogenous audience perspective, news creators will need to shape their narratives to fit different members of their audience. These experiments will not only deepen engagement but lead to greater comprehension. And that will help to heal the nation’s partisan divide and improve trust in the media.

And 2021 will be the year that the newsrooms acknowledge that journalism needs more than one approach to revenue. Subscriptions will remain important, but not every news consumer who needs and deserves quality news can afford to, or will choose to, pay for a subscription. A human-centered approach means learning from, not dictating to, news consumers.

Studying news consumers cannot just mean better buttons and more compelling calls to action. Instead, we need to make news to serve users in a compelling form that’s easy to comprehend and that can be paid for in a way that seems fair and accessible.

Jeremy Gilbert is Knight Chair for Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, [and] Integrated Marketing Communications.

It’s time for news publishers to realize that human-centered design doesn’t just apply to the design of media products. In 2021, news publishers will realize that reporting and storytelling must be driven by a deeper understanding of audience needs — not just audience interest. And we’ll see publishers employ business models for different audience segments — also grounded in user research.

In the new year, newsrooms will realize:

  • that a new decade necessitates new modes of storytelling;
  • that journalism must take into account their audiences’ perspectives and understanding; and
  • that different consumers need different ways to pay for news.

It’s time for news on the internet to stop looking and reading like a digital newspaper from the 1990s. The internet allows us to tell stories in more compelling ways. In 2021, new and existing news organizations will start investing in new kinds of audience research that will lead to new storytelling forms and experiences. Using iterative approaches and rapidly maturing AI tools, a combination of personalization and multi-sensory storytelling will transform the average article experience.

Newsrooms also need to acknowledge the different ways their varied audiences — varied by race, class, education, or other characteristics — perceive news. Instead of demanding a singular, homogenous audience perspective, news creators will need to shape their narratives to fit different members of their audience. These experiments will not only deepen engagement but lead to greater comprehension. And that will help to heal the nation’s partisan divide and improve trust in the media.

And 2021 will be the year that the newsrooms acknowledge that journalism needs more than one approach to revenue. Subscriptions will remain important, but not every news consumer who needs and deserves quality news can afford to, or will choose to, pay for a subscription. A human-centered approach means learning from, not dictating to, news consumers.

Studying news consumers cannot just mean better buttons and more compelling calls to action. Instead, we need to make news to serve users in a compelling form that’s easy to comprehend and that can be paid for in a way that seems fair and accessible.

Jeremy Gilbert is Knight Chair for Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, [and] Integrated Marketing Communications.

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