Readers embrace a low-information diet

“It’s stressful to articulate an issue and seek out an answer, and I suspect most Americans will want to cut out stress from their lives.”

2021 will bring a sigh of relief and a whole lot of questions. When can we go back to the office without worry? How long will it take to get a new job in this economy? How do you meet new people these days? Is it worth exploring a new childcare solution so we can go out to dinner for the first time in a year? Is it time to go see family six states away? If work is going to be remote, should we move out of the city to get more space and a backyard? When will it be safe to stop wearing a mask?

Journalism that serves readers will give answers — and reassurance — to people who are just plain tired after this slog of a year. Readers will have questions about vaccines, public health, and economic policy, and the outlets delivering that information in a clear, accurate, and direct way will thrive. Think straight news with a dollop of traditional service journalism. What information will improve readers’ daily lives?

The way readers find information will continue to shift. It’s stressful to articulate an issue and seek out an answer, and I suspect most Americans will want to cut out stress from their lives. And after a year of urgency and chaos, I predict many people will be fine with a low-information diet. Outlets that embrace proactive outreach like newsletters, text messages, and opt-in push notifications may find broadening these tools beyond the breaking-news paradigm fruitful. Used judiciously, proactive outreach can share useful knowledge that makes a reader’s day better, without them having to go through the effort of seeking out the solutions to their problems. It’s a fine line, though, and one that too-eager outlets can cross into spammy territory if not careful.

While disinformation will be in the mix, publications can combat it, and cement the trust of their readers, through transparency. Successful publications will showcase the most pertinent and actionable information and follow it up with a thorough explanation of how they came to those conclusions.

Audio interfaces will also grow in importance and usefulness. Readers may not want to spend time searching for a specific news event, but they may ask Siri, Alexa, or Google to play the latest news from NPR or an episode of The Daily, especially as people start commuting again. While talk radio will have a place, I suspect — or perhaps just hope — that people will avoid rage-based media in order to bring a sense of normalcy back to an unprecedented world. Who will want to stay angry when the world is actively improving?

TikTok will grow exponentially, but news outlets will never be able to harness it beyond brand building. And they shouldn’t! It’s not a social network so much as a boredom cure. The app’s time-agnostic algorithms are the opposite of newsy, but they’re perfect for entertainment purposes. And the most fascinating part is how all of these creators mix visual and audio in novel combinations. Just scroll through the app for 10 minutes and you’ll find stunningly clever compositions created by fearless 13-year-olds. TikTok will open doors to Hollywood the same way that GarageBand opened doors to the Billboard music charts. By 2040, we’ll have an Oscar winner for Best Editing who got their start on TikTok.

Megan McCarthy is executive editor for growth at Reviewed.

2021 will bring a sigh of relief and a whole lot of questions. When can we go back to the office without worry? How long will it take to get a new job in this economy? How do you meet new people these days? Is it worth exploring a new childcare solution so we can go out to dinner for the first time in a year? Is it time to go see family six states away? If work is going to be remote, should we move out of the city to get more space and a backyard? When will it be safe to stop wearing a mask?

Journalism that serves readers will give answers — and reassurance — to people who are just plain tired after this slog of a year. Readers will have questions about vaccines, public health, and economic policy, and the outlets delivering that information in a clear, accurate, and direct way will thrive. Think straight news with a dollop of traditional service journalism. What information will improve readers’ daily lives?

The way readers find information will continue to shift. It’s stressful to articulate an issue and seek out an answer, and I suspect most Americans will want to cut out stress from their lives. And after a year of urgency and chaos, I predict many people will be fine with a low-information diet. Outlets that embrace proactive outreach like newsletters, text messages, and opt-in push notifications may find broadening these tools beyond the breaking-news paradigm fruitful. Used judiciously, proactive outreach can share useful knowledge that makes a reader’s day better, without them having to go through the effort of seeking out the solutions to their problems. It’s a fine line, though, and one that too-eager outlets can cross into spammy territory if not careful.

While disinformation will be in the mix, publications can combat it, and cement the trust of their readers, through transparency. Successful publications will showcase the most pertinent and actionable information and follow it up with a thorough explanation of how they came to those conclusions.

Audio interfaces will also grow in importance and usefulness. Readers may not want to spend time searching for a specific news event, but they may ask Siri, Alexa, or Google to play the latest news from NPR or an episode of The Daily, especially as people start commuting again. While talk radio will have a place, I suspect — or perhaps just hope — that people will avoid rage-based media in order to bring a sense of normalcy back to an unprecedented world. Who will want to stay angry when the world is actively improving?

TikTok will grow exponentially, but news outlets will never be able to harness it beyond brand building. And they shouldn’t! It’s not a social network so much as a boredom cure. The app’s time-agnostic algorithms are the opposite of newsy, but they’re perfect for entertainment purposes. And the most fascinating part is how all of these creators mix visual and audio in novel combinations. Just scroll through the app for 10 minutes and you’ll find stunningly clever compositions created by fearless 13-year-olds. TikTok will open doors to Hollywood the same way that GarageBand opened doors to the Billboard music charts. By 2040, we’ll have an Oscar winner for Best Editing who got their start on TikTok.

Megan McCarthy is executive editor for growth at Reviewed.

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