miércoles, 5 de junio de 2013

A proposal: What do people want to know?

The big dilemma today for digital news publishing platforms is how to balance what people “want” to know with what people “need” to know. Most algorithms learn readers’ news consuming habits but have no ability to predict people’s interest when the next tsunami strikes. Likewise, publishers around the planet are learning that their assumptions of how, when and where people want their news are, in the most part, wrong. Tablets have given a second life to long form reading, thought to be dead because of the move towards shorter stories online. In my research at Oxford University, I plan to look into the right formula for news publishers – both platforms and news media companies – to define what they push to readers: what readers want, what they need and what they don’t know they don’t know – a serendipitous approach. This is part of the missions as news organizations: servicing our readers by both satisfying their needs and desires while also providing a public service. You can listen to a panel I organized in this topic at SXSW in Austin, Texas here: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP12550 I will try to define these wants, needs and desires based on audiences’ consuming patters, or touch points: when, where and how they want to get their news and how to create the right mix of news offerings to satisfy a reader that’s has more choices – and more control over those choices – than ever. Among the questions I will try to answer are: How to appeal to people who do not currently consume news? How do people actually consume it? How to define and find out what people want and need? How to offer an interesting “news discovery” experience? How do we go beyond journalistic arrogance of serving people what the “need”? What do they need? What is a “necessary” news publication? What does that mean? When and where do people get their news? How to map out touch points during the day? Where do people get their news beyond digital, in their daily lives? Can we create a social-news-graph? One fundamental field of study would be interest-based journalism. How to satisfy people’s interests while providing a service? Is this what people want the only thing that should drive a digital newsroom? I will look into current analytics tools, measurements, benchmarks and decision-making processes. I am particularly interested in how to incorporate the right “audience-centric” formula into newsroom without compromising the news brand. Influence, prestige and quality should be the drivers when serving readers, but news organizations have to come back to putting their readers first and include them in the decision-making process. While language and demographics are the obvious starting points, are I am interested in understanding what types of news do people read, at what time, in which platform and in which frequency. Digital allows us to measure all of these, but today’s measuring sticks are not providing real guidance to editors and reporters on a daily basis. Clicks, unique users, page views, and others units of measurement do not tell the whole story. I want to understand the role that influence, engagement, needs, and quality play in news consumption. Why do people really read what they read? One aspect that has been thoroughly analyzed and that adds to the misconception is social sharing. Do people only want to read what their friends and family are reading? Oddly, the answer seems to be “no.” What kind of a role these relationships play in news consumption and how do traditional “experts” in the newsroom influence these reading habits. Do journalists still have a role to play or should we just hook up the newsroom to computers and let the algorithms served only the news that people have declared they want?