To your first and second point, the key for journalists is not to make the mistake of viewing automation as an all or nothing prospect. Too many workers of all types do. They assume their jobs will be either all robots, or all humans. The best is a combination of both. And as Ferrara told Poynter, the thing about news is that it never ends. If you free up people from the busywork of basic stories robots could produce, there’s an endless supply of potential and valuable stories they can tell instead, hopefully with a keener eye toward the audience.
This is brilliant. And yes — the one strong way to make sure small niche films reach the audiences they need to reach to be worth making, in potentially greater numbers. In a broad sense, audience data mean never having to reach the “mass audience” ever again. Targeted reach will become not just the norm, but the economic expectation.
A baseline of sports data has made new industries like fantasy sports possible. Could fantasy leagues get more popular for sports other than football as data for those sports becomes more pervasive and is better collected? I wonder if that will become the expectation for all sports…
It does seem like data is the reason Valve does so well with its games. Data collection is baked in to their launches and upgrades. I remember when Counter-Strike introduced its economy for items and weapon skins and the like. Had they not launched with ways to track how the features were being used, they would have lost a huge opportunity. Video games in particular seem to really get the importance of understanding how players play games. If only media outlets would put as high a premium on understanding the people who read their stories…
This is fascinating. You’d think cities in general would be happy with deployment of law enforcement based on crime rates, but I’ve seen communities where crime is not that probable complain if they think their communities are being ignored, or if petty theft is being tolerated while police go after trouble spots. I’d be interested to see how the public responds to a program like this. In any case: very cool idea.
Well, it may not. It’s certainly something to worry about. In fact, I think news organizations’ number one competitive threat are the companies that have way more access to audience data than they have. It tips the scales. The second Facebook wants to go into news, or Twitter wants to deepen its news delivery (it’s already taken a much bigger step than before with its recent Moments feature, which delivers staff-curated stories), the companies will have a huge audience intelligence advantage. Snapchat is another one to watch for. Probably the best thing news organizations can do right now is prioritize audience analytics wherever they can. Automation, if it spreads, could help. A big reason newsrooms innovate slowly is because they always feel strapped, with all resources strained on news production.
This is one theory many in media share about how the future of journalism might pan out. One big downside: It doesn’t take into account the fate of local news. Niche sites can scale wonderfully at a national and international level, but local sites in smaller metro and rural markets about just one or another topic have a hard time staying sustainable, and end up staying small-scale, do-it-for-love blogs rather than legitimate businesses. The future of local news is a particular interest of mine, and it’s disheartening to know that what sites like Buzzfeed, Politico and the New York Times have learned barely applies.
Good stuff. One place where I’m both optimistic and pessimistic about NYT is in its news app, NYTNow. It’s a killer news app. It’s got a good voice, great story selection, and its selection of stories from other sites its editors believe are worth reading make it pretty much a one-stop shop for newsies like me. That’s great. Where I’m pessimistic is in the opportunity they have to capture and use data about its audience and their behaviors to customize the app experience to each user. So far, they don’t seem to be taking it.
Yeah, I doubt it. And you’re right: digital native publications have proved they have a huge advantage, which would seem counterintuitive, considering the head start of legacy organizations, until you consider how unbelievably unsuited to innovation newsrooms have been for decades, and how ill-equipped newsroom leaders have been to problem solve those kinds of deficiencies and find new ways through them. End result: Starting from scratch has actually proven easier than starting ahead, but without much sense of how to change.
Agreed. One thing that sets Politico apart is that it’s established itself as a leading source of insider information for a very influential audience that consumes information constantly — policy wonks. Its subscription policy news service, POLITICO Pro, was founded in 2011 and continues to grow, charging thousands of dollars per subscription. So they’re kind of like The Wall Street Journal in that the reliance of their audience on insider information, and the amount they’re willing to pay for that information, serves as a kind of buffer other news sites about other niches (or other political news sites who don’t have their command of their niche) don’t have.
It seems like the tricky thing with Microsoft is to get ahead of the game again. As you point out, they’ve been following other companies for years, when they used to lead. We learned about how Samsung leapt to the number one spot in the TV market, but tech is a tougher thing. How can they get the resources they need to do something surprising? Something different?
What impresses me most about theSkimm is how it’s cut through the dominance of the platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Google’s search — to keep control of its distribution when few in media do. They have the email addresses of each of its readers and that’s huge. It puts them in a position to learn from their audience, track behaviors, etc., the sort of things that have given companies like Google the advantage they have.
You’re right that Buzzfeed isn’t known for its journalistic prowess. But that could be changing. In the last two years it’s grown an investigative reporting team that’s gone after some big stories. They often focus on issues important to young people, but those can often be pretty serious. One example is Ellie Hall’s work on the American teenagers who have been recruited by ISIS: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/gone-girl-an-interview-with-an-american-in-isis#.jgXMJxOBP