Takeaways from The News Evolution at Collision [Video]

Christel van der Boom / April 21, 2021

This week, Collision, referred to by some as “the Olympics of tech,” takes place digitally with 40,000 attendees from all over the world. Hundreds of speakers, from Ryan Reynolds, actor and owner of Mint Mobile to Deborah Archer, president of the ACLU, address the impact of technology on all aspects of our lives, including healthcare, civil rights, education and our media diets. 

Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue and Washington Post managing editor Kat Downs Mulder spoke with Digital Content Next’s Michelle Manafy in a session titled “News evolution: From print, to push, to the almighty algorithm.” They explored how technology impacts news creation and consumption; the following three key themes emerged during the conversation.

1. The Democratization of Reporting

People are increasingly paying reporters directly for content and building a direct relationship with them, fueling the democratization of reporting, as well as the rise of the creator economy. Platforms such as Substack and Patreon are making it possible for journalists, reporting on their local communities or an industry, to work independently. 

Examples of journalists that work independently include tech journalist Casey Newton, who recently started Platformer on Substack, to report on the tech industry; and Michael Theis, who runs Route 1 Reporter, focused on local news for Prince George’s County, whose readers can subscribe via Patreon.

“In a lot of locations, that central role of a news provider has been challenged as many have gone out of business,” describes McCue. “The economics of local news will be more focused around local reporters: the people who are passionate, who live there, who are capable of reporting, and who may have once worked at a local news provider.”

2. Human Curating in Partnership with Algorithms

The future of news will come to us via a combination of people and algorithms. The volume of content that is published every day requires machine learning algorithms to connect people with the stories and topics that are most relevant for them, but it’s key for news providers and platforms to be mindful of the pitfalls of automation. Especially in the case of news, human curation—editors curating content and using journalistic judgment around what’s trustworthy or timely—needs to complement algorithms that provide personalization and relevance.

“I really think that readers value that layer of curation—human curation—that’s combined with algorithmic recommendations or relevance engines,” Downs Mulder explains.

3. The Principles Remain the Same

With new emerging models for the creation of sustainable quality journalism, the role of news providers is changing, along with the ways news is distributed and discovered. What remains the same is the importance of trust: people continue to value news from trusted sources. Now, news organizations and individual journalists can be a trusted news source and build a relationship with their audiences.  

“The importance of reporters having relationships with the people that are their sources and their communities that they’re within and the industries that they’re reporting in, remain as true today, as ever, if not more,” McCue points out.

“At its most basic, journalism is what matters,” Downs Mulder stated. “People are willing to pay when they get recurring value from journalism whether it’s in newsletters, on small sites, or in podcasts. There are all kinds of different mechanisms by which reporters can distribute their work. But it has to be something that’s essential to people.”

Updated on May 4, 2021 with a video of the full conversation:

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