The Nieman Lab asked me to make a news industry prediction for 2015. Because I usually make all of my work public and transparent and involve the audience on a daily basis (on Twitter and on the Social Sandbox), I decided that this prediction should be no different. This morning, I sent an email to 40 people in my address book who don’t work in news and asked for their predictions. I also asked Facebook and Twitter.
Most people sent me a tweet or a paragraph, which I’m compiling for the Nieman folks. Not Matt Crespi. Matt, who is currently getting his PhD in Pittsburgh and runs
a comprehensive assessment of the best burger restaurants (*see bottom) in Philly, sent six ideas in full paragraphs. They’re really, really good so I’m publishing them all here. (A condensed version of this will go to Nieman, with a link back to the full enchilada.)
OK, here are my predictions for 2015 (though these are mostly trends which will start or continue in 2015, they won’t be wholly contained to the calendar year):1) Algorithms will get smarter. Each individual customer’s news-consuming behavior will be better predicted and served by increasingly intelligent recommendation engines. The more you use a particular service, the better it will know you (and this may be true across technology platforms, e.g., through your Google account). This will increase a consumer’s cost of switching, and perhaps decrease their exposure to opinions and information which don’t support their existing points of view.2) Headlines will get dumber. For 10 reasons why this is true, plus a special bonus reason that will leave you speechless, click here.3) Explanations will get smarter. We’re perhaps seeing the dawn of explanatory journalism, a useful and inevitable product of 24 hour news networks and internet providers. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with everything, and by the time something comes to the average reader’s attention, chances are they’ve already missed something. The best journalists and news organizations will find an increasing need and appreciation for journalism that can help catch someone up, on both events and facts that are relevant to a story. And this means articles will start to look different to accommodate the extra information. We’ll have the ability to click for more, see a slideshow of facts, expand or collapse explanations, and so on. A few clicks or taps will help us customize our own explanations. This won’t be fully realized by the end of 2015, but we’ve started already, and I think and hope we’ll make big progress on this issue soon.4) Longer articles will get dumber, but perhaps in some helpful ways. We like lists and rankings. We hate slideshows, but they generate ad views, so they’re not going anywhere. Attention spans are getting shorter, so longer pieces will take on more conversational tones, more Q&A formats. We may also see intellectual breaks in the middle of longer articles. The same way John Oliver showed viewers a video of an adorable hamster eating a tiny burrito in exchange for their attention on a death penalty story, so too will online news sources be able to give you a bit of cognitive candy, comic relief, or eye bleach intermittently throughout a long article on a serious topic. Some will call this the beginning of the end for long form journalism of any quality. Others will call it a quantum leap forward in getting more readers to pay attention to important stories that used to be too dry or technical or depressing to get people to notice.5) For better or for worse, everything’s going mobile–or at least, everything’s gaining the ability to be consumed on a small mobile device. This is great, because it keeps people from having to make small talk in an elevator.6) Final prediction: at the end of 2015, someone’s going to ask “What will journalism look like in 2016?” This will be awesome, because by that point we’ll be able to talk about the potential impact that self-driving cars have on the way people consume news. How cool is that?!