Future Thinking

‘Tis the season for publications to predict trends in journalism over the forthcoming year.

This year many of the lists read more like a wish list than predicting the future. Journalism is clearly in the middle of its digital evolution and in the face of constant invention within the communications market, only the most foolhardy commentator would make firm predictions past the immediate future.

Nieman Lab have produced a behemoth like collection of predictions which is impossible to digest as a whole. A scroll through the index however shows a well trodden journey through the themes that have been a constant preoccupation to media organisations through 2015; When will VR be an actual thing? The rise and rise of podcasting and Newsbots and Data. What is to be done about comments and notifications? How is everyone else using chat apps? How the hell can journalism make money?

The best articles in the collection acknowledge the uncertainty of the immediate future and instead seek to summarize the challenges faced by the news industry in 2016.

Alfred Hermida looks at ‘The 5 Es of Journalism’: experimental, experiential, explanatory,emotional and economical journalism. Hermida, who studies the impact of digital communications technology on journalism and new models of journalism education writes;

‘Experimentation is becoming far more than just an add-on: It is emerging as a prerequisite for survival at a time of flux and uncertainty. Be it telling stories on WhatsApp or producing content for specific distribution networks from Facebook’s Instant Articles to Snapchat’s Discover, experimentation is just part of what it means to be a relevant news organization in the 21st century’.

Erin Pettigrew declares 2016 ‘The Year of Reckoning’.

‘The online media industry’s 20-year history has been a story of successfully innovating past lumbering traditional media, only to then be fiercely challenged by an even stronger innovator on the other side: the technology industry. This year will determine if digital publishing continues to be the fast-experimenting growth industry it has been until now or a maturing industry that gives way to technology’s progress’.

Amy Webb believes ‘Novelty is the New Normal’.

‘News organizations, and the communities they serve, must cope with hundreds of first-time situations driven by technology at a pace unmatched in any other time in history. We experience these micro-moments on a near-daily basis: new mobile apps, new connected watches, new hacks, new ways to harass others on social media, new directives in how to “binge watch” the latest show on Netflix’.

The message Radar is receiving is that the media shouldn’t expect any firm answers to the questions raised by 2015. Instead journalism has to continue to roll with the punches, as nimble continues to be be the name of the game.