What’s in store for journalism in the digital era?

Recent ongoing shifts towards new technologies have shaken the foundations of journalism, leaving public broadcasters, journalists and media professionals alike to rethink how to best operate in, and adapt to, in an ever evolving media landscape.

Last week we headed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, London, to attend Newsrewired, a conference on digital journalism organised by Journalism.co.uk, to discover the latest in digital journalism. Speakers from CNN, Le Monde, The Guardian, Google, BBC, The New York Times, and many more discussed the latest trends, challenges, and tools in digital journalism and where it’s heading next.

Here’s what we learned, with a few tips that could help our members make the most out of the latest technology and the potential it holds to engage new and existing audiences.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

It may seem obvious, but the mobile phone has become a neglected tool in the newsroom, where efforts have been re-focussed on the latest “shiny toys”, like VR. But mobiles are here to stay – at least that’s what Sasha Koren, editor of Guardian Mobile Lab, thinks.

“We’re not talking about it enough as a specialty”, she said, in spite of the fact that the use of mobile devices has been growing exponentially and surpassed the desktop as a primary source of internet access. In fact, close to 85% of adults now get their news via smart phone.

However, not everyone is tapping into this reality. There has been a lack of mobile-tailored content and the role of a mobile editor is becoming somewhat a rarity, leading to missed opportunities to better connect with audiences. Furthermore, newsrooms are only using the bare minimum of what is actually available. In this case, going forward is a bit like going back: instead of looking at apps and the next development, it’s crucial to make use of existing paradigms and tools available, such as push notifications, video and audio.

The important thing? Don’t forget about the audience. Ensuring the loyalty of viewers is still more essential than ensuring monetisation, and getting them more involved is one of the best ways to keep them engaged with a newsroom’s brand and its work. The overarching aim should thus always be to serve readers first and find the best ways to keep them informed in a free democratic public space.


Who/Where: ask these questions to find out where (which platform and location) and who your audience is in order to learn what it is that your audience actually need;

Start small: it might not be easy, especially on a tight budget, but starting from small changes, such as experimenting with story formats and making the most of already available technology in your newsroom can be great steps forward;

Partner up: collaborate with people who share similar goals and interests. Collaboration is key in the contemporary digital news landscape.

Social Media

With mobile comes social media, a widely used but often unexplored tool. With social media comes immediacy, risks and a great deal of functions, too. A particular feature on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and now even Facebook, is ‘Stories’. Stories allows you to record videos of up to 10 seconds, with images and audio, often containing text that can be uploaded one after another to create a ‘sequence’ and thus a story for followers to see and interact with.

These might still be a novelty in many newsrooms and among journalists, but they are becoming increasingly popular among social media users and journalists. Sumaiya Omar, a social media consultant and founder of HashtagOurStories, thinks social media Stories are great to produce and curate original content. The perks? They are low cost, immediate and authentic.

Yet the use of social media and stories obviously poses certain risks and it’s often easy to get things wrong on social media. But Sumaiya has a few tips for journalists to make the most out of social media Stories:

Be original: there is a lot of content in social media, and through stories and their added features (filters, stickers, text and hashtags) you can make your content unique, strengthen your brand and voice, and engage more users. Plus, stories give journalists the chance to create exclusive, immediate and ‘raw’ content on the spot without requiring extensive editing;

Be consistent: multiple stories create a narrative, so keeping consistency is key to ensure readers get an accurate news report, especially as stories go on top of the users’ timeline when they are updated, with the possibility to view them again and again;

Create suspense: telling a story in 10 seconds can be quite hard. But it sure does create some suspense as users wait to see, read or hear what’s next. So continually updating news as it unfolds will make the audience check back for more.

Making the most of your Facebook headlines

What are the most clicked Facebook headlines? The results might surprise you. BuzzSumo, undertook a research study to find out which phrases in Facebook headlines are the most effective in driving readers’ engagement with articles. They analysed 100 million articles between March and May 2017, with their research also extending to other social media platforms.

Interestingly, the most shared three-word phrase was “…will make you”, followed by “this is why…”, and “can we guess…”. According to BuzzSumo this is predominantly due to these phrases being used to form a “promise” within a headline, connecting the article’s content to the impact it might have the reader.

Numbered posts still catch the most attention. At the end of the day, surprise and emotional headlines are what really drive Facebook interactions, especially when associated with a strong image or visual elements.

Push notifications

Push notifications – the news alert popping-up on your phone whenever something ‘big’ is happening – are the fastest growing digital area of interest for newsrooms, driven by the increasing importance of mobile use and accessibility.

The New York Times has been using push notifications to communicate with their audience and “it drives readership like nothing else,” said Des Shoe, the newspaper’s senior staff editor. It allows the NY Times to, in one or two sentences, deliver a lot of concentrated information on to their audiences lock screen, engaging audiences even when the phone is not in use. .

But there is a lot of work to be done. Banarjee, product manager mobile at Conde Nast International, touched on key points and his disappointment on how little push notifications have been used in the right way.

“Assumed knowledge is the enemy of the push alert,” he argued, noting how push notifications can benefit from contextualising and explaining better why they matter. He also suggested that greater personalisation was needed to avoid unnecessary notification of the end-user.

So what does the future hold? Building layers of personalisation that giving users the ability to opt in and out of specific alerts and using localisation to provide personalised information are some of the things newsrooms are working on to enhance the push notification experience.


Don’t try anything fancy: keep it simple and to the point, so that readers can get a grasp of the most salient points of a news story.

Don’t be fast, be accurate: getting ahead of the game before anyone else can be enticing when it comes to publishing a breaking news story, but that should never come at the expense of accuracy. Make sure the information you are sending out is as correct as possible

Explain and contextualise: provide concise information that conveys as much as possible to the reader in the given space – let them see why the information might be relevant to them.

Check out

Make sure you check out these great initiatives taking off:

ICNN Network: The Centre for Community Journalism has recently formed a representative network for the independent community and the local news sector. The Independent Community News Network (ICNN) will act as a representative body for local news, providing help, support, a solid network as well as training on journalism skills. Applications for memberships are now open.

Refugee Journalism Project: an initiative that helps refugee and exile journalists restart their careers in the UK as media professionals, offering mentoring, internships and support.

Header Image: Speakers at the Newsrewired conference. From left to right, Nic Newman from RISJ, Des Shoe from The New York Times, Sasha Koren, Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab, Subhajit Banarjee, Conde Nast International, and Matt Wells, CNN Digital Worldwide.