Nieman Lab Predictions and the Urgency of Our Work


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Every year, the Nieman Lab at Harvard University publishes the idea of some of journalism’s smartest thinkers.

Reading this year’s predictions (which include the thoughts of our Project Lead and Community Lead) we noticed a very strong trend: a massive 41 of the pieces talk in exactly the same terms as we do about the future of journalism. (A few even talk about us - those are marked **)

Here is a selection of quotes from throughout this year’s predictions.

In short: we’re onto something at The Coral Project. Our mission feels more urgent than ever.


Journalists can actively include users in our work, seeking input often, responding to that input promptly, and bringing them along to experience journalism first-hand. The belief that our own news judgment is more valuable than the questions of our communities is both paternalistic and out of sync with the many-to-many ethos of modern communication. Products like Hearken and The Coral Project are built to facilitate and organize this work and demonstrate that this effort pays off in increased engagement and strengthened brand relationships…

The days of “don’t read the comments” are absolutely dead. If community is our core value, we don’t get the luxury of checking out and being dismissive when our community is unhealthy. Rather, journalists must be responsible hosts, actively engaging, listening and questioning the community to nurture its value. Journalists must seek to elevate the community, serving as a true platform of ideas rather than a command-and-control distribution force for facts we deem interesting.

Building community and learning to serve it allows media businesses to deliver more business value. – Journalism Is Community As a Service - Rebekah Monson **

We need to get our journalists, our marketing people, our social media teams, and our engagement editors at the same table. – The Sales Funnel Reaches and Changes the Newsroom - Anita Zielina

Our fellow citizens are still listening to us as journalists, still reading, still watching, still learning from us — and that we need to redouble our own efforts to listen, and to learn from them. – The Country Doesn’t Trust Us But They Do Believe Us - Richard Tofel

As Trump wages a daily battle against the media, it’s crucial we connect to people who have felt disconnected from us. – Stop Flying Over the Flyover States - Rachel Schallom

Readers are looking to deepen their relationships with publications that can help them make sense of the world… In 2017, publishers will continue to build brands around their talent. They’ll also create places for their most devoted readers to congregate… Their audiences may be smaller, but they’ll be more valuable. – Defining a Focus and Then Saying No - Keren Goldshlager

The link between advertising and news that has for so long provided so much of the money invested in professional journalism is coming apart.

That is why publishers are working so hard to diversify their business models: away from legacy platforms and away from digital display advertising, with a much greater emphasis on digital subscriptions, sponsored content, events, services, business-to-business, you name it — anything, really, that can leverage the audience and reputation publishers still have. – News After Advertising May Look Like News Before Advertising - Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

The best way to rebuild trust is to work together, so let’s involve our audience in our reporting. Every reader is an expert at something, either through their job, education, or life experience. Together they form the greatest untapped source of knowledge in the history of journalism. And thanks to communications technology, we now have the opportunity to tap into this. Let’s start with sharing our story ideas, asking for their input and acting like conversation leaders. – Earn Trust By Working For and With Readers - Ernst-Jan Pfauth

As news organizations, we have to reclaim our identities and be more than just “content-creators” that fill feeds. It’s time to rethink our coverage and look deeply at what we stand for… We have to build communities online and offline that speak to the mission of why we do what we do. – The Year of Digital Detoxing - Dhiya Kuriakose

To rebuild trust as the pillar of our brands, a few key newsrooms this year will make a journalistic and business argument for listening — even though it’s hard to measure cleanly on Chartbeat. They’ll do it because they know that building loyalty and trust requires tuning into the concerns and voices of the whole community. – The Year of Listening - Andrew Haeg

For instance, behind-the-scenes look into how a news organization covers a significant event can be raw video footage that readers can follow along in real time — available only on mobile. Group chat on mobile including reporters can build a community. – Mobile Websites Are Ready for Reinvention - Priya Ganapati

In 2017, journalists will… create strategies and even teams to involve UGC in their process more than ever before. – The Audience is the Source and the Story - Mandy Velez

Exchanging conquest for understanding means we’ll relate to and see the individual and the communities beyond the broad strokes of a “new audience.” – International Expansion Without Colonial Overtones - Millie Tran

[We need to] show up in communities, and not just in times of crisis; to report on the daily lives of minorities in a way that normalizes them to the rest of America; and that newsrooms must hire decision-makers, not just reporters, who are reflective of the communities we cover. – Chaos or Community - Errin Haines Whack

Reasoned discussion may currently be the weird and radical option in our current political environment, but I feel the tides beginning to turn. – Fake News Gets Solved - David Chavern

We will all finally accept Facebook for what it is — a nice place to share photos of family and friends and pets, a handy marketing tool, and a fragmented echo chamber that is inhospitable to public service journalism. – Time to Pay Up - Mark Armstrong

Community is built in journalism’s DNA.

When we talk about developing business models and audiences, what we’re really talking about is building community. – Journalism is Community - Geetika Rudra

Some media outlets are trying hard to make Facebook just one of many platforms and networks they take advantage of, while others are pursuing alternate ways of connecting with their audiences, rather than sacrificing everything they have in pursuit of reach. Maybe they will show the rest of the industry that it can be done. – The Faustian Facebook Dance Continues - Mathew Ingram

As engagement increasingly becomes the media metric of choice, local is ideal for building deep connections between journalists and the communities they serve. There is much more experimentation to be done in collaborating creatively with the public. – Local News Gets Interesting - Burt Herman

The internet has been around long enough for audiences to expect a personal connection with the media they interact with. Many columnists and news personalities have quickly adapted to these new expectations. But news organizations have struggled to adequately capture and incorporate audience feedback at scale. Consider how readers, viewers, and listeners have historically had limited avenues for sharing their feedback through inbound methods like letters to the editor, customer support calls and @ replies. – Incorporating Audience Feedback at Scale - Emily Goligoski

In 2017, we will be using specific insights to reach specific audiences: loyal ones, who engage with the content often, and at length, who consume a lot of it, often share it, increasingly comment on it and eventually, for most publishers — indeed for more and more of us — pay for it. – Pure Reach Has Reached Its Limit - Renee Kaplan

For introverts, who are common in the field of journalism, opening oneself up and allowing others to get to know you — and vice versa — isn’t easy. But this simply must happen in order to develop trust and relationships with our audiences. We can do this by talking and listening to them (actually walking a beat and immersing ourselves in the communities we cover). Interacting with existing audiences through comments, believe it or not, is also a great way to get to know our readers. – Building Reader Relationships - Tracie Powell **

Our readers, viewers and listeners see themselves as part of a community. News organizations need to acknowledge that they are a gathering place for a community. The members of these communities do not want to despair or feel disempowered. Most of them want a sense of agency in the world. – Inspiration and Hope Will Matter More Than Ever - Guy Raz

News organizations will better network those connections to form greater community among their audience members… I predict they will build on their empathic connections with their audience for the purposes of product and experience to form broader, stronger and more robust communities. – From Empathy to Community - Emi Kolawole

To ensure that news reports have impact, we’ll need to connect with readers because we reflect the readers. – Connecting with Diverse Perspectives - Doris Truong

I predict that in 2017, more news outlets will listen more deeply to the people of this country with genuine curiosity and without preconception. To find common strands and common solutions. To bridge a chasm that is wider than we realized. Authentic voices — not fake news. In 2017, the media will let the people have their say. – Authentic Voices Not Fake News - Laura Walker

Many stories lay dormant in the vast amounts of data produced by everyday consumers because journalists are still only starting to acquire the large-scale data-wrangling expertise needed to tap them. – The Primary Source in the Age of Mechanical Manipulation - Lam Thuy Vo

Technology is not here to generate revenue for newsrooms. It is here to help journalists forge civic connections with communities that were left behind as small newspapers closed and media coverage became centralized. – Distracted Journalism Looks in the Mirror - Zizi Papacharissi

Ask yourself why, in your personal life, you trust people. Is it because they talk down to you? Unlikely. It’s probably because you establish a relationship and are able to have genuine conversations. – Show Your Work - Laura E. Davis

The ask is most decidedly not for censorship but instead for stronger, abler enforcement of their own community standards. A Year of Reflection in Tech - Erin Pettigrew

As journalists, we are exposed to a wealth of knowledge every day, but should never forget that there are millions of people outside of our newsrooms who are more of an expert in whatever we’re writing about — any topic, on any given day — than we will ever be… Twitter quizzes and Facebook polls don’t tell us anything about the story of a reader, and comments, though more authentic than other forms of UGC, are policed and feared to the point that they don’t provide a service to reader or journalist. Let’s really consider how we communicate. – UGC As a Path Out Of The Bubble - Annemarie Dooling

There will be many brave journalists… working to not just tell stories and uncover wrongdoing but also to find creative ways to use their skills to work with communities and not just for them to solve problems. – We Won’t Do Enough - Carrie Brown-Smith

Right now, most articles only give a reader the ability to view, comment, and share. Sites will explore further what it means to allow readers to be more active, giving their audience more expression and ability to take part in a two-way conversation. – Moving Deeper than the Machine of Clicks - Kawandeep Virdee

How can media organizations seize the opportunity? The first of many steps is to be more transparent. Among other ways to do this: explain why they’re doing what they do, and how; ask their audiences to be more involved in the journalism, via crowdsourcing and other techniques; have real conversations with the community, beyond troll-infested comments the journalists (and others with common sense) ignore; and fully disclose errors with explanations of what happened and what steps they’ll take to prevent further occurrences. – Fix the Demand Side of News Too - Dan Gillmor

News is not journalism if what’s being reported is only meant to extract value from communities as opposed to creating value within them. Rebels will seek out new ways to better connect and engage with their communities. – Rise of the Rebel Journalist - Andrew Ramsammy

Platforms will face a pretty simple calculus: correct for civility or risk losing users en masse. – Platforms Grow Up or Grow More Toxic - Ryan McCarthy

Moving forward will require… a careful and sustained practice of building trust with audiences. This might mean operating beyond the page and screen, to help foster critical media literacy skills and grow supportive communities, and to equip people to better evaluate and create content they see online and offline. This will require new ways to listen more effectively, work with online groups more actively, ask more questions, and experiment within interdisciplinary communities. – 2017 Is For the Attention Innovators - An Xiao Mina

When you figure out how to improve comment sections without taking resources away from the newsroom, new opportunities open up. In the next year, armed with a new set of behavior-modifying platform tools, publishers will finally turn their comment sections into valuable assets, into the foundation of their response to Facebook’s incursions. Peel back the layers of abuse, and you’re left with an incredible combination: trusted, high-quality news content combined with real, active social networks, on the same page, under the same roof. – Comments Start Pulling Their Weight - Aja Bogdanoff

We can’t have a conversation, or help enact change, unless we listen and are willing to consider that something outside of our experience has validity… We all need to take a look at how we think about, and talk about, people who disagree with us if we ever hope to change anybody’s heart or mind. We have to meet people where they are. – Feeling Blue in a Red State - Mary Meehan

Building trust is building quality. And if you have a loyal community then you probably can ask them for help… If you want to run away from post-factual journalism, find a trustable social contract with your readers. If you want to be respected by people, try to get closer to them. Not as clients, not as the product being sold, but as your best friends. – Your Predictions are Our Present - Juan Luis Sánchez