I got asked to appear on Journalism.co.uk’s weekly podcast last week, it was about predictions for digital journalism in 2014.
I’m not Mystic Meg, but it did make me pause and think about what we might be doing over the next 12 months. It’s very easy to get stuck in the next 24-48 hours news cycle and not consider what’s going to happen next.
One thing is for sure, digital storytelling is evolving as the device we’re telling the story on expands and evolves rapidly.
Here’s my two pennies worth for what I see as what might be big in 2014:
Content for mobile
We hear a lot about responsive design, the idea that whatever device you’re consuming content on it’s scaled to fit and work properly on it. This is great but I think in 2014 we’ll see more content being made specifically for mobile and tablet users.
I recently got an iPad and flicking through Newsstand the majority of e-editions appear to be page-turners. The majority of Apps seem to be feeds pumped out of the same content on the desktop news site.
So, will 2014 see media companies experimenting with producing mobile-specific content? For those two types of consumers we tend to see on mobile – the ones with a short constrained time period e.g. a commuter who wants to snack and consume quick-bites of content. And the bedtime reader, the tablet being the last thing they see at night (instead of their wife/husband!).
Linked with the continued rise of mobile and tablet consumption of media is the ability for media companies to know exactly where a user of their app/mobile site/e-edition is.
There’s two opportunities here, targeting content based on a user’s location and giving them the ability to see content which is around them. Could there be a chance to make some proper and useful city and town guides in the UK?
And the ability for a user to contribute to the news like never before. If a newsdesk or reporter knows your location, can you fire notifications to those users.
There are plenty of services out there offering UGC notifications, but having the ability to speak to your own users rather than someone else’s is always more appealing. You’re going to get pictures/video/quotes that stand apart from the competition who may just be trawling Twitter/Facebook and finding everything everyone else has already got. What’s unique about that?
It’s kind of obvious, and video seems to be permanently on the “list of things which will be big next year…” but with the rise of smartphone and tablet ownership, plus unlimited data tariffs a lot of the fear about online video is drifting away. If you’ve got consumers with big data allowances, time to kill and free access then video is a great way to engage them. But if it’s on mobile, does it need subtitles? And good volume controls.
I recently did an analysis of the most-viewed content on the Manchester Evening News and Birmigham Mail apps. So that’s content read by iOS and Android readers during the last two months, put the most read story headlines through Wordle to see the themes. Video is right up there as one of the most used words in headlines. So maybe this change is already happening…
Lists, lists and more lists
They are going to become the cash cow of the internet. Listicles, inspired by Buzzfeed, are become a format the readers understand and clearly like. At Trinity Mirror we’ve seen some of our regional titles experimenting with lists, WalesOnline in particular have been doing some great work to drive new audiences through a series of listicles that really only make sense if you’re Welsh. But what lists actually offer to regional publishers is a way to define your brand, define your audience and also reach new ones.
Hyperlocal gets serious
I recently started finishing off my hyperlocal lists, with people who run hyperlocal sites and also the Twitter accounts of sites themselves. I’ve got the hyperlocal sites as a list in my Tweetdeck account. It’s fascinating. It’s like having a hyperlocal PA wire always on, seeing interesting tidbits fly in from across the country. Last night, Saddleworth News were leading the news agenda in Greater Manchester with reports of gun shots.
Some hyperlocal sites are finding business models as they become established in their communities. Anything like Lichfield Live that has been around for approaching five years proves it can stand the test of time, and very established sites like London SE1 are the best case in point that their is a model out there. And some are also moving into print, but not as a local newspaper would recognise them. And that’s a good thing. Each hyperlocal site has its niche and it will find a different model to fill that.
If you want more on hyperlocal, there’s a chapter on it in an e-book I’ve written with Hannah Waldram and Marc Thomas called Connected. It’s all about social media and how it’s changing communities.
What would your predictions be for digital journalism in 2014? Let me know in the comments below