10 News Media Content Trends to Watch in 2010

by Vadim Lavrusik

online news imageThe news media is experiencing a renaissance. As we end the year, its state in 2009 can be summarized as a year of turmoil, layoffs and cutbacks in an industry desperately seeking to reinvent its business model and content. But despite the thousands of journalism jobs lost, the future has much hope and opportunity for those that are willing to adapt to a changing industry.

Much of that change is happening now. And in the coming year, news organizations will look to approach monetization and content experimentation that is focused on looking at the web in a new way. News (news) in 2010 will blur the lines between audience and creator more than ever in an era of social media. Below is a look at several trends in content distribution and presentation that we will likely see more of in 2010.

1. Living Stories

Living Stories Image

One of the difficulties of the web is being able to really track a story as it develops and creating engaging formats for long-form articles. The article page is often the only thing that a reader sees and not the story in its full context. In 2010, news organizations will design stories that are more suited to the way readers consume online content.

One early sign of this is the recent collaboration between Google (Google), The New York Times, and The Washington Post on the Living Stories project, an experiment that presents coverage of a specific story or topic in one place, making it easy to navigate the topic and see the timeline of coverage on the story. It also allows you to get a summary of the story and track the conversations taking place. This format contextualizes and personalizes the news.

2. Real-Time News Streams

Our news consumption has morphed into a collection of streams. Whether it’s from our Twitter (Twitter) homepage or an RSS reader or a Facebook (Facebook) feed, we get bites of information that sometimes satisfy us or direct us to places where we can get more information.

The move toward real-time news is increasingly important, and media critics and professors like Jeff Jarvis predict these streams will replace web sites. That change may not come in 2010, but streaming news elements will become a an integral part of traditional news sources. We’re already seeing Twitter streams and other visualizations incorporated into news home pages with updated financial and market information from new sources like Google Finance.

The challenge however, is that journalists need to accept that news breaks through real-time social media platforms like Twitter, said Alfred Hermida, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia School of Journalism.

3. Blogozines

blogozine image

Another format that takes effort, but can be an engaging alternative to the traditional blog post is the blogozine. This could be great to keep a reader engaged in a long-form story. Though I don’t think we will see the death of simple blog posts, a rich-media and rich-layout approach from blogozines will gain momentum in 2010.

4. Distributed Social News

This year the social news trend gained momentum with the explosion of Twitter. Moving into 2010, news organizations will further distribute their content across social platforms that allow its users to create a personalized and socialized news stream. Personalized search has emerged in 2009, and 2010 will see more sites integrating applications that allow users to create personalized news streams.

More news organizations are beginning to establish a presence across multiple platforms and social sites, and it’s not just the popular sites like Twitter and Facebook anymore. Newsweek, for example, started a Tumblog because the “format is adapted especially well to magazine journalism, since it encourages a deeper engagement.”

Robert Quigley, social media editor at the Austin American-Statesman, said he thinks news sites will continue to exist for a while, but the “smart news sites will extend their tentacles into the spaces where people are communicating, and talking about news.”

5. News Goes Mobile

Globe and Mail Mobile Image

In general, 2010 will see a distinct transformation in the way people consume news as smart phones become ubiquitous. And as more startups enter the market of mobile transactions, news organizations could develop strategies or provide services for transactions to take place on mobile apps.

News companies should be prepared with a mobile-first strategy. Instead of just selling ads to business customers, news organizations can help small businesses develop applications that help them do business in the mobile marketplace, said Steve Buttry, C3 coach at Gazette Communications.

Mathew Ingram, communities editor at The Globe and Mail, said mobile also has great potential to increase the number of content consumers, especially if it is done in a geo-targeted way to reach a local audience. Something that news organizations should also be prepared for is e-readers gaining a larger market and the emergence of the Apple Tablet, which publishers like Wired Magazine are already getting ready for. Meanwhile, Time Inc. and other magazine publishers are looking to create a Hulu for magazines where consumers can purchase and manage digital subscriptions.

6. The Year of Geo-Location

Geo-location services will be the buzz of 2010, though it’s difficult to predict which services will rise to the top. Geo-tweets could take this space, but companies like Foursquare (Foursquare) and Gowalla (Gowalla), which combine geo-location with social gaming, are highly addictive and have a lot of potential, especially with an advertising format that serves its users.

Mathilde Piard, social media manager at Cox Newspapers, said there is a lot of potential for news sites to get into the market of events and venue listings. “There are event listings and business directory listings out there but none that are good enough yet,” Piard said, and “Geo-tagging goes hand-in-hand with this stuff.”

Also, imagine the opportunity for news companies to work with advertisers to make ads more relevant to location. Imagine an iPhone app that buzzes when you walk by a bar telling you the daily drink special, Quigley from the Statesman said.

7. Story-Streaming

The 3six5 Image

New storytellers means new ways of telling stories. We will see more story-streaming with the growing popularity of simple blogging platforms like Posterous (Posterous) and Tumblr (Tumblr).

An example of this is a project from Daniel Honigman and Len Kendall called the3six5, which aims to get 365 people – one for each day of the year – to write about something that is happening in the world that day and how it relates to them. Though neither Honigman or Kendall are journalists, the storytelling format of life streaming is what attracted the two to start the project. Honigman said it is an experiment in crowdsourced storytelling.

8. Social TV Online

2010 will see some big improvements in online video and even greater shifts of viewers moving away from their TVs to watch online as companies like Hulu and others reinvent the space. The coming year could see sites like Hulu (Hulu) becoming profitable, and even extending to international markets to increase viewership.

We’ve seen TV shows like PBS’s News Hour moving to YouTube, and 2010 will see an increased push for TV to reinvent itself online. One way of doing this is through “social TV.” Hulu, for example, lets Facebook friends watch shows together, and has account, rating, and sharing elements akin to social giant YouTube (YouTube). We’ll see social TV take center stage in 2010.

9. Marketers as Producers

Winning the Web image

Marketers are also beginning to skip the journalist as a middleman to produce their message and are instead producing it themselves. Mike Sprouse, chief marketing officer at Epic Advertising, started a 28-page monthly (printed) magazine called Winning the Web. The magazine includes commentary and content on emerging trends in online marketing, and is produced by just two people working full-time. It’s distributed to about 3,000 people and is completely free.

Sprouse sees more marketers and other professionals in general moving into the direction of producing content themselves. He said most companies have a blog or a Facebook page, and going into the coming year, more companies will shift to produce content themselves in a “thought leadership” approach.

10. Social News Gaming

Chuck Me Out Image

With social gaming sites growing in popularity (Facebook’s Farmville is bigger than Twitter), news media companies will surely experiment with creating their own social news gaming applications. Social gaming is highly addictive and if a news organization were to effectively execute their own game, it could serve as a way to keep news consumers coming back and a way to present stories or information in new ways.

NBC introduced a social media game for its series “Chuck” called Chuck Me Out that lets users gain points for spreading news about the show or getting friends to watch it. The person with the most points by March 8 will have their photo appear on the show or win one of another several prizes. Perhaps a similar concept could be applied to news content in 2010.

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