Tag Archives: futurology

Someone asked me about 2016 and 2017. This is what I said

Crystal ball image by Christian R. Hamacher

Crystal ball image by Christian R. Hamacher

Every year Nic Newman asks a bunch of people for their reflections on the last 12 months and their anticipations for the year ahead. Here’s what I’ve said this year — as always, to be taken with significant doses of salt. 

What surprised you most in 2016?

Perhaps the sheer number of significant developments (compare the posts for 2015 and 2014). It was the year when bots went mainstream very quickly, and platforms took further significant steps towards becoming regulated as publishers.

It was a year of renewed innovation in audio. 2016 saw the launch of a number of new audio apps, including Anchor, Pundit, Clyp and Bumpers.fm, as various companies attempted to be the ‘Facebook of audio’. The only problem: Facebook wants to be the Facebook of audio too: at the end of the year they introduced live audio. Continue reading

2015 in review: you’re so retro

Snapchat's breaking news coverage

Snapchat’s breaking news coverage was one of the most significant developments of 2015

It’s that time again: Nic Newman‘s email has dropped asking various people to do some highly suspect future-gazing (at least I got WhatsApp and the election right last time). Here are my answers to his questions, delivered with suitable scepticism…

What surprised me most in 2015?

What surprised me most in 2015 is the enormous surge in ‘civic tech‘ around the election compared to 2010: coders collaborating to make apps and websites to help people make an informed decision on their vote. Continue reading

A review of online journalism in 2014 – and predictions for 2015

Every December Nic Newman asks me and a bunch of other people for their thoughts on the year just passed, and the year to come. This year, it seems to me, has been particularly seminal, so I’m reproducing my responses here.

1. What surprised you in 2014?

How many news organisations finally began to write web-native copy: linking and embedding multimedia (often from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter or Vine).

The rise of visual journalism has been the most notable trend of 2014 for me, driven by the algorithms of Facebook and changes to Twitter, and the integration of SMO staff and best practice into news organisations.  Continue reading

2 guest posts: 2012 predictions and “Social media and the evolution of the fourth estate”

Memeburn logo

I’ve written a couple of guest posts for Nieman Journalism Lab and the tech news site Memeburn. The Nieman post is part of a series looking forward to 2012. I’m never a fan of futurology so I’ve cheated a little and talked about developments already in progress: new interface conventions in news websites; the rise of collaboration; and the skilling up of journalists in data.

Memeburn asked me a few months ago to write about social media’s impact on journalism’s role as the Fourth Estate, and it took me until this month to find the time to do so. Here’s the salient passage:

“But the power of the former audience is a power that needs to be held to account too, and the rise of liveblogging is teaching reporters how to do that: reacting not just to events on the ground, but the reporting of those events by the people taking part: demonstrators and police, parents and politicians all publishing their own version of events — leaving journalists to go beyond documenting what is happening, and instead confirming or debunking the rumours surrounding that.

“So the role of journalist is moving away from that of gatekeeper and — as Axel Bruns argues — towards that of gatewatcher: amplifying the voices that need to be heard, factchecking the MPs whose blogs are 70% fiction or the Facebook users scaremongering about paedophiles.

“But while we are still adapting to this power shift, we should also recognise that that power is still being fiercely fought-over. Old laws are being used in new waysnew laws are being proposed to reaffirm previous relationships. Some of these may benefit journalists — but ultimately not journalism, nor its fourth estate role. The journalists most keenly aware of this — Heather Brooke in her pursuit of freedom of information; Charles Arthur in his campaign to ‘Free Our Data’ — recognise that journalists’ biggest role as part of the fourth estate may well be to ensure that everyone has access to information that is of public interest, that we are free to discuss it and what it means, and that — in the words of Eric S. Raymond — “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“.”

Comments, as always, very welcome.

Tools or Tales?

Christmas gifts image by Michael Wyszomierski

Christmas gifts image by Michael Wyszomierski

This month’s Carnival of Journalism asks what journalists want for Christmas from programmers, and vice versa. Here’s my take.

Programmers and developers have already given journalists enough presents to last a century of Christmases. Programmers created content management systems and blogging platforms; they wrapped up networks of contacts in social networks, and parcelled up fast-moving updates on Twitter and SMS. They tied media in ribbons of metadata, making it easier to verify. They digitised content, making it possible to mix it with other content.

But I think it’s time for journalists to start giving back.

All of these gifts have made it easier for journalists to report stories. But that’s only part of publishing.

Technology’s place in journalism

Traditionally, journalism’s technology came after the story: sub-editors or designers laid the story out in the way they judged to be the most effective; printers gave it physical form; and distributors made sure it reached people.

Each stage in that process considers the next person. The inverted pyramid, for example, helps subs trim copy to fit available space. Subs talk to printers. Printers work with distributors. Processes are designed to reduce friction. The journalist’s work – whether they realise it or not – is a compromise reached over decades between different parties. An exchange of gifts, if you like.

But when it comes to publishing online, there’s been very little Christmas spirit.

Stories as a vehicle

Stories help us connect with current issues; they act as a vehicle for information that allows us to participate in society, whether that’s politically, socially, or economically.

The job of a journalist is to find stories in current events.

But those stories do not have to be told in one particular way. And if we were to try to tell them in some different ways (adding important metadata; publishing raw data; linking to supporting material; flagging false information), we could be giving a gift much desired by developers.

Here are some things that they could do with that gift – it is, if you like, my own fantasy Christmas list:

They’re just ideas – and will remain so as long as journalists assume they’re only writing for newspapers, and newspaper readers.

The newspaper is a tool: a way for groups of people to exchange information. In the 19th century those groups might have been political activists, or merchants who needed to know the latest trading conditions.

The web is a tool too – a different tool. We can use it to ask information to come to us, or to seek out supplementary information; we can use it to draw connections; and we can act on what we find in the same space. Stories need to adapt to the possibilities of the new tool they sit in.

This year, put a developer on your Christmas list. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

5 predictions for journalism in 25 years

The following is cross-posted from XCity Magazine, the student magazine for City University, where I teach online journalism. They asked me to look ahead 25 years. I barely think you can look five years ahead at the moment, but I agreed anyway. This is, of course, not meant to be taken seriously…

If you’d asked someone in 1986 to predict what journalism would be like now, you would have ended up with Michael J Fox playing a techno-draped future hack. In a flying car. And lots of fluorescent pink.

We have a tendency to cast the future as an exaggerated present. We give too much power to technology, and not enough to people. Any prediction I can come up with for 25 years’ time will, of course, say more about 2011 than 2036.

But there’s nothing like a challenge… Continue reading

JEEcamp – when the cottage news industry met mainstream media

What happens when you bring together local journalists, bloggers, web publishers, online journalism experts and new media startups – and get them talking?

That was the question that JEEcamp sought to answer: an ‘unconference’ around journalism enterprise and entrepreneurship that looked to tackle some of the big questions facing news in 2008: how do you make money from news when information is free? Where is the funding for news startups? How do you generate community? What models work for news online? Continue reading