The Way Things Are Now*

This State of the Blog Union by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge is such an astute overview of The Way Things Are Now as it relates to online media, the ad business, and more generally just how media and consumption has changed in the last decade or so D*S has existed online.

The goal is to always be testing things out. It takes a lot more work and effort to always be changing, but in an industry that doesn’t sit still, adaptation and evolution are requirements.

I always find the best media writing by those who are living and making these types of decisions day in and day out. Another person I always read on this is Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. One of his recent posts musing about how he can better serve his readers with new and differiated products is very good. (TL;DR from Nieman Lab is here.)

I haven’t written much — of anything — in awhile for one reason or another, the main one being starting a new job is *kind of crazy*, but all of a sudden, have found myself needing to write several things! So here I am, dusting off the ol’ blog.

One of the many things I’ve been thinking a lot about came out of a conversation I had with a friend at work recently. We were talking about shifting your instincts, previous learnings and experiences to new places and he said the most interesting things to watch will be figuring out which instincts/learnings/experiences you’ll need to keep and adapt and which won’t work for XYZ place you’re in. I was thinking about this a lot as I was reading the D*S piece — it’s all about equipping yourself with the skills AND experiences necessary to become more adaptable.

It sounds repetitive (because I say this with every change, etc.) but my past experiences have truly informed a lot of what I’m currently working on.

Three things:

  1. I basically studied media obsessively for two years while I was at the American Press Institute and the one thing I know now is that if anyone tells you they’ve figured it out, they’re lying.
  2. One of the most important things I learned at BuzzFeed was *how* to work in that constantly changing environment and adapting to that.
  3. I’m lucky to have started my career at Atlantic Media while David Bradley was running it and to have been on the team led by Poppy MacDonald because they are two of the most service-oriented people in media I know. It’s always about how to serve and better serve your customers/audience/readers/viewers/whatever.

That’s all I’ve got — I haven’t figured anything out either!

*For now

Exactly this

Heather Chaplin articulates what I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

You can think about design as audience engagement. Designers always start by asking who they are designing for and why. So when we think about audience engagement and wanting to know our audience, design as a discipline can really help us. I also think about design as new product development: Nobody knows how people will consume news as we move forward. What might it look like, and what are the newspapers of the future? Design processes can help us come up with that.

via Nieman Lab

Two good ideas

  • When to quit your journalism job: “If you work in any kind of editorial organization, it is your job to understand the business model. If you feel you can’t do that, you should quit. By ‘understand the business model,’ I mean you can (confidently) answer this question: What is the plan to bring in enough money to sustain the enterprise and permit it to grow? Can’t answer? You have the wrong job.” [Jay Rosen, PressThink]
  • How to be an expert in a changing world: “The first step is to have an explicit belief in change … Another trick I’ve found to protect myself against obsolete beliefs is to focus initially on people rather than ideas.” [Paul Graham]

Identifying your audience

Two unintentionally related things happened today: theSkimm, an email newsletter that summarizes the day’s news for a young, female audience, raised $6.25 million in financing. And I wrote this piece about the rise of “smart filters” like email newsletters. The main thrust of it was that I think we’ll see more editorial products that not just filter information, but will also do so with a reference point or “voice”/approach intended for an identified and specific audience.

It was interesting to see the feedback about theSkimm — about its voice being grating or flippant. I mostly agree, but I think that’s a great thing because I accept that I’m probably not its core audience. theSkimm is a great editorial product and it’s been successful so far because it identified a very specific audience and serves that audience really well. If you don’t like it, you’re not that core audience.

I think this is what happened initially with Vox’s explainer backlash. Its tone wasn’t right for some of us, but we probably weren’t Vox’s core audience anyway. So I think it’s a good sign when people have strong feelings — hopefully positive — about your product because congrats, you found your audience.

Also, it means that as more organizations realize this, they’ll make a product for you too.

The challenge is, as Mathew Ingram writes, is that the “broader you become, the less valuable you become for each individual reader. It’s like the law of diminishing returns, in a media sense. And so you need more and more readers to stay afloat, let alone to grow.”

Anyway, I have a big report coming out fairly soon (hopefully in the beginning of January) on single-subject news products and I try to address a lot of these questions about audience, etc. in it.

Asking a better question

Working with audience research and survey geniuses have made me reevaluate one of my favorite, oft-asked questions: How do you get your news?

I’ve realized that there are a lot of assumptions in that question. What does “news” mean to different people — people of different ages, races, education level, socioeconomic status?

It’s not there yet but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I think a better question might be some variations of the following:

  • How do you spend your time [online]? (On x, y, z)
  • What activities are you doing [online]? (To do x, y, z)

I think my biggest problem with “How do you get your news?” is the assumption that news is core to people’s lives. It may not be and they may not actively seek it — but they probably can’t avoid it. So, where are they bumping into “news” (and information more generally) in their day to day life?

How social media silences debate

“Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends … The Internet, it seems, is contributing to the polarization of America, as people surround themselves with people who think like them and hesitate to say anything different. Internet companies magnify the effect, by tweaking their algorithms to show us more content from people who are similar to us.”

I’ve been thinking about this study a lot. I think this is mostly true, though I’m not sure that government surveillance example was the best case to test “the spiral of silence.” I’d be more curious about the protests in Ferguson and race relations in the U.S. and social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, etc.

Aside from the actual study, I think the findings largely comport with the fact that social media, at least in terms of Facebook and Twitter, are actually not that great for debate in the first place (I’d argue that blogging and very, very few comment sections can be more civilized and productive) and that many people don’t feel the need to express their opinions in a pseudo-public place (versus in-person) anyway for any multitude of reasons, but most likely for employment purposes.

The researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence, a theory that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. The Internet, many people thought, would do away with that notion because it connects more heterogeneous people and gives even minority voices a bullhorn.

Instead, the researchers found, the Internet reflects the offline world, where people have always gravitated toward like-minded friends and shied away from expressing divergent opinions.
(There is a reason for the old rule to avoid religion or politics at the dinner table.)

And in some ways, the Internet has deepened that divide. It makes it easy for people to read only news and opinions from people they agree with. In many cases, people don’t even make that choice for themselves.

(Emphasis is mine.) The in-person facet and the platforms’ algorithms are the most interesting to me than the need or willingness to express divergent opinions though. I think a lot about how people get their news THEN interact and process that information with those they know, whether it’s friends, family, or colleagues.

via New York Times / Pew Research

Its your opportunity to shuffle a warm and persistent notion. buy college paperws They are restricted professionals, who recognize how to write an essay. But we fair chamfer routine consume a near story

Reshaping the business of news

It’s easy to become inured to journalism loss. It’s mounting every day across the world. While it can range from upsetting to life-changing to energizing (for the lucky) for those laid off or bought out — for readers, it’s mainly a tale of loss. They know less about more, at a time when democratic societies are struggling and often failing to deal with fundamental issues before them. As we reshape the business of news, we’ve got to ask better questions about how those reshapings affect what readers get — and what they don’t.