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.

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

An Xiao Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Cory Haik   Be essential

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

james Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

L. Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Richard J. Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery