Working harder to reach audiences where they are

“There’s a reason young people are looking to graphics in Instagram carousels to explain news topics to them.”

I recently visited my old high school, a magnet school for overly ambitious teens, as part of a Career Day for current students. Between regaling them with tales of My Career in Journalism and cringing over memories from my own high school days, I asked students where they’re getting their news.

Nothing I heard surprised me; in fact, it was much the same message I hear from friends my age, and that’s what has me intrigued. From what I see, we now have at least three generations growing up — Millennials, Gen Z, and Generation Alpha — whose consumer habits are not being met by a single news organization (with the exception of one enterprising teen who loves CNBC). That gap presents possibilities.

Instead of actively opening a newspaper or turning on the evening news, there’s a general expectation that if news happens that’s big or pertinent enough, it’ll reach us without us seeking it out. We’ll see it on social media or a passive news aggregator or push alert or in our inboxes. I expect that in 2023, journalism will work harder to reach audiences where they are — if the industry knows what’s good for it.

Does that mean more publications on TikTok? Yeah, of course it does. And probably also more brand-name or brand-name-aspirant journalists explaining scoops confessional-style to their phones and Substacks. More newsletters on more niche topics, more deals with aggregators, more Tumblr posts (we’re all pivoting back there from Twitter, right?).

But “reaching audiences where they are” is more than a tech question — it’s also a philosophical one. There’s a reason young people are looking to graphics in Instagram carousels to explain news topics to them. News organizations haven’t fundamentally evolved in how they tell the news, despite that audiences have changed with the internet, and often fail to discuss issues in an authentic way that younger people actually care about.

When it comes to how we tell the news, Axios’ bullet-point summary model is a good exception; it gives frenetic online readers a quick summary they can choose to dive into with the full article. It’s also proof you don’t need to overhaul a CMS to rethink how you tell stories. Honestly, we journalists could stand to learn from those viral IG carousels — quick bites, easily digestible and shareable.

Similarly, news organizations should consider the tone of articles. Trust in media is low, and I’d venture to bet part of that is because we don’t write the same way we talk — which creates a disconnect, and thus mistrust, for the audience. Call a quote untrue when a source says something untrue. Live a little with your word choice. How much bothsidesism do we really need when one side is founded on spreading misinformation or hate-grounded rhetoric? Some of what I’d recommend is just basic good practice: Read your writing out loud and see if it sounds like something a human would say.

When it comes to the news we’re telling, I hope in 2023 we’ll see some sprouts growing from seeds planted in 2020. That’s a bad metaphor to say: Keep remote journalists — who can tell stories that are important where they are — on the payroll. Local news is failing as a business model, but people still crave geographically close stories. So major news organizations should invest in remote workers around the nation and trust their news judgment about what locals are paying attention to. That would help eliminate the problem of news orgs parachuting in and misunderstanding a place. Plus, ya know, save $$$ on office space.

Finally, we should be reporting even more on climate change, social justice, and systemic financial crises like housing unaffordability and student debt — and not just in wide-eyed “millennial women aren’t having kids for reasons NO ONE HERE can guess at” stories. That means investing in a group of reporters and editors who are diverse across measures (geographically, racially, by gender, age, and identity, etc.) to tell smarter stories for audiences who connected the dots years ago. And while we’re at it, continue support for diverse leadership in newsrooms.

Journalism has an opportunity to engage with generations craving information. That’s an exciting prospect, and one I hope news organizations put some work into if they want dedicated audiences in the future.

Alexandra Svokos is the senior editor of digital at ABC News and an MBA candidate at NYU Stern.

I recently visited my old high school, a magnet school for overly ambitious teens, as part of a Career Day for current students. Between regaling them with tales of My Career in Journalism and cringing over memories from my own high school days, I asked students where they’re getting their news.

Nothing I heard surprised me; in fact, it was much the same message I hear from friends my age, and that’s what has me intrigued. From what I see, we now have at least three generations growing up — Millennials, Gen Z, and Generation Alpha — whose consumer habits are not being met by a single news organization (with the exception of one enterprising teen who loves CNBC). That gap presents possibilities.

Instead of actively opening a newspaper or turning on the evening news, there’s a general expectation that if news happens that’s big or pertinent enough, it’ll reach us without us seeking it out. We’ll see it on social media or a passive news aggregator or push alert or in our inboxes. I expect that in 2023, journalism will work harder to reach audiences where they are — if the industry knows what’s good for it.

Does that mean more publications on TikTok? Yeah, of course it does. And probably also more brand-name or brand-name-aspirant journalists explaining scoops confessional-style to their phones and Substacks. More newsletters on more niche topics, more deals with aggregators, more Tumblr posts (we’re all pivoting back there from Twitter, right?).

But “reaching audiences where they are” is more than a tech question — it’s also a philosophical one. There’s a reason young people are looking to graphics in Instagram carousels to explain news topics to them. News organizations haven’t fundamentally evolved in how they tell the news, despite that audiences have changed with the internet, and often fail to discuss issues in an authentic way that younger people actually care about.

When it comes to how we tell the news, Axios’ bullet-point summary model is a good exception; it gives frenetic online readers a quick summary they can choose to dive into with the full article. It’s also proof you don’t need to overhaul a CMS to rethink how you tell stories. Honestly, we journalists could stand to learn from those viral IG carousels — quick bites, easily digestible and shareable.

Similarly, news organizations should consider the tone of articles. Trust in media is low, and I’d venture to bet part of that is because we don’t write the same way we talk — which creates a disconnect, and thus mistrust, for the audience. Call a quote untrue when a source says something untrue. Live a little with your word choice. How much bothsidesism do we really need when one side is founded on spreading misinformation or hate-grounded rhetoric? Some of what I’d recommend is just basic good practice: Read your writing out loud and see if it sounds like something a human would say.

When it comes to the news we’re telling, I hope in 2023 we’ll see some sprouts growing from seeds planted in 2020. That’s a bad metaphor to say: Keep remote journalists — who can tell stories that are important where they are — on the payroll. Local news is failing as a business model, but people still crave geographically close stories. So major news organizations should invest in remote workers around the nation and trust their news judgment about what locals are paying attention to. That would help eliminate the problem of news orgs parachuting in and misunderstanding a place. Plus, ya know, save $$$ on office space.

Finally, we should be reporting even more on climate change, social justice, and systemic financial crises like housing unaffordability and student debt — and not just in wide-eyed “millennial women aren’t having kids for reasons NO ONE HERE can guess at” stories. That means investing in a group of reporters and editors who are diverse across measures (geographically, racially, by gender, age, and identity, etc.) to tell smarter stories for audiences who connected the dots years ago. And while we’re at it, continue support for diverse leadership in newsrooms.

Journalism has an opportunity to engage with generations craving information. That’s an exciting prospect, and one I hope news organizations put some work into if they want dedicated audiences in the future.

Alexandra Svokos is the senior editor of digital at ABC News and an MBA candidate at NYU Stern.

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

Kaitlin C. Miller   Harassment in journalism won’t get better, but we’ll talk about it more openly

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Jennifer Brandel   AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Mauricio Cabrera   It’s no longer about audiences, it’s about communities

Kavya Sukumar   Belling the cat: The rise of independent fact-checking at scale

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Andrew Losowsky   Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Nikki Usher   This is the year of the RSS reader. (Really!)

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Well-being will become a core tenet of journalism

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

An Xiao Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Burt Herman   The year AI truly arrives — and with it the reckoning

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Shanté Cosme   The answer to “quiet quitting” is radical empathy

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Laura E. Davis   The year we embrace the robots — and ourselves

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Megan Lucero and Shirish Kulkarni   The future of journalism is not you

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Don Day   The news about the news is bad. I’m optimistic.

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Jacob L. Nelson   Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting