"The shift towards storytelling as a product-development process will take some convincing. Media companies are skeptical of tech culture, and for good reason. 'Move fast and break things' isn't a suitable mantra for an industry with a civic responsibility to get the details right. But we will learn to take the parts of tech methodologies that work for us, and ditch the parts that don't. In the end, we will have created something entirely our own."
That quote comes from Rebecca Searles, a product manager at NBC Owned Television Stations. It is part of a wonderful annual feature called Predictions for Journalism 2019 from NiemanLab, where they round up forecasts from close to 50 prominent media people. I remember checking back during last year on more than one occasion and nodding my head about a prediction coming true.
Here's a sampling of 2019 predictions that apply to niche publishing:
Think journalist as product manager. "Journalists... are beginning to get acquainted with the concept of product development and what a product manager does, learning how to develop concepts collaboratively and with defined outcomes in mind (great journalism and revenue)," writes Renée Kaplan, head of audience engagement at the Financial Times. "Journalists are beginning to actively seek out audience insights from data analysts and customer research people that can help them get better at doing the thing they always thought they were doing: targeting readers interested in their journalism. (And who might also pay for it.)"
Move beyond silos. "We talk a lot about trust in news, and less about our own trust in our own news organizations," continued Kaplan. "I predict—and I certainly hope—that 2019 will be the year when trust and collaboration within and across our own organizations becomes the obvious way forward.
(I recommend reading her whole entry.)
Start a podcast (if you haven't done so already). "Nobody has any attention span anymore. Least of all anyone under 40." Until a few years ago, it seemed that virtually all media watchers, and media makers, agreed on this, writes John Biewen, audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. "One of the most gratifying revelations to emerge from the podcast boom is that the above article of faith was dead wrong... My prediction: More podcast series in 2019. They'll keep getting better, smarter, deeper and more varied."
"Pursue a Spanish-language audience. "Spanish-language audio content will blow up in 2019, reaching not only Latin American audiences, but U.S.-based Latino listeners," writes Carolina Guerrero, CEO and co-founder of Radio Ambulante. "There's a huge opportunity coming for Spanish-language audio producers. The Latin American podcast market is showing real signs of life, with an exciting wave of producers, new shows and growing audiences."
Provide easy payment options. "One-time donations and month-to-month subscriptions to content from individuals are on the rise, as observed by the increase of social media personalities with links on their social profiles or YouTube live broadcasts allowing their followers to send funds or to join their Patreon campaigns," writes Michael Rain, a TED Resident and creator of The ENODI Project. "All of these factors create an opportunity for journalists and media players who thrive with curation to build communities in digital spaces that they control."
Empower and collaborate. Effective representation isn't about checking a quota box for the number of women or people of color, as it's been said time and time again," writes Colleen Shalby, engagement editor for the Los Angeles Times. "It's about providing people with the right tools for growth in a space where they are empowered, mentored and encouraged to use their voices. Competition is often at the heart of what we do. But if we default to collaboration in our pursuits of bettering journalism and strengthening our newsrooms, we will be stronger for it. We owe it to each other."
Provide value. "We talk constantly about pageviews and engagement rates, circulation stats and Nielsen ratings, subscriptions and donation rates, but all that happens when we successfully offer something to human beings that is of value to them," writes Tamar Charney, managing editor of NPR One. "Knowing what we do for people also keeps us clear about why we are doing what we are doing. It helps us know whether we are doing things for the right reasons."
Check out all the predictions here.