3 things BuzzFeed News thinks about before sending a push alert

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump met Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York. While the big story in the U.S. that day was the passage of the Republican healthcare bill in the House of Representatives, the meeting was major news in Australia. As a result, BuzzFeed News decided to send an alert to its app users who have chosen to follow Australia news in its news app. The alert read: “There were some delays, but Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump finally met in person. Here’s how it went down. 👴🏻 ❤️ 👴🏻 ” Yes, it included the emoji, which has purposefully become a hallmark of the BuzzFeed News app, Brianne O’Brien, the lead news curation editor at BuzzFeed’s London office said on a panel at the ONA Dublin conference on Friday. After BuzzFeed launched its news app in 2015, two-thirds of the downloads were from
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What’s the big journalism trend for 2017? Fear (oh, and voice news bots)

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s annual predictions report, released Wednesday, starts out a little bleak and doesn’t exactly let up: In 2017, “key developments will center on fears about how changing technology is affecting the quality of information and the state of our democracy.” The report also highlights publishers’ conflicting views about the rise of social media platforms: Of the 143 editors, CEOs, and “digital leaders” surveyed across 24 countries:
— 70% said worries over the distribution of fake/inaccurate news in social networks will strengthen their position, while… — 46% say they are more worried about the role of platforms than last year — 56% say Facebook Messenger will be important or very important part of their offsite initiatives this year. 53% say the same for WhatsApp and 49% for Snapchat — 33% of respondents from a newspaper background are more worried about their company’s
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Study: Fox and CNN are the top news brands for smartphone alerts

How many news alerts will you tolerate on your smartphone’s lockscreen? Which organizations do you get them from? And what types of alerts do you prefer? “News Alerts and the Battle for the Lockscreen, a new report by Nic Newman for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, surveyed 7,577 adults in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Taiwan who received notifications from news apps on their phones and said they engaged with the notifications frequently. Among the survey’s findings: — A third of smartphone users in America receive news alerts; of those, 72 percent “say they value the notifications they receive and many see alerts as a critical part of the news app proposition.” — Breaking news alerts were the type most valued by users. “Clickbait headline and emojis were strongly disliked in this context…People click on the alert about half the
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Here are some more predictions for journalism in 2016

Predicting the year ahead in journalism has become a Nieman Lab tradition. Each year, we ask some of the smartest people in the business to share what they think the year ahead will look like for news. We’re not the only ones looking at how journalism will fare in 2016, though. This week, Nic Newman, a research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, released a new report: “Media, Journalism and Technology Predictions 2016.” Newman’s report touches on many of the questions that are at the forefront of people’s minds these days: How will the surge in distributed content continue to affect publishers? What’s the next battle in the war against adblockers? How will news organizations deal with the relentless explosion in mobile messaging apps? Will VR or other new technologies change the way journalism is presented? Beyond these questions, Newman surveyed 130 editors, executives,
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What’s New in Digital and Social Media Research: The realities of citizen journalism, and new possibilities for transparency

Editor’s note: There’s a lot of interesting academic research going on in digital media — but who has time to sift through all those journals and papers? Our friends at Journalist’s Resource, that’s who. JR is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and they spend their time examining the new academic literature in media, social science, and other fields, summarizing the high points and giving you a point of entry. Here, John Wihbey sums up the top papers in digital media and journalism this month.

Recent papers from academe have continued to highlight tensions over letting citizens into the news process, as well as the need to be more open and transparent with the public. Many of the papers below have insights on related themes. In addition, several think tanks have published some important new reports. “Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence,’” from the Pew Research Center, highlights the sociological factors that inhibit robust discussion of controversial issues on notionally “open” platforms, while the American Press Institute has a paper advising news organizations on how to find extra money through shows, conferences, expos, and more: “The Best Strategies for Generating Revenue through Events.” Here is a sampling of recent academic studies:

“Citizen Participation in News: An analysis of the landscape of online journalism”: From the University of Southampton, published in Digital Journalism. By Jonathan Scott, David Millard, and Pauline Leonard. The paper examines how much citizen participation there really is in the realm of news by looking at the dynamics of 32 “systems” — from Reddit and Slashdot to YouTube, CNN iReport and The Guardian — and analyzing four case studies in how stories developed and were reported. Scott, Millard, and Leonard suggest that, despite hype around greater citizen participation, the reality is more disappointing; the “news outlets’ use of social networks does not create more openness as they use these outlets only as an additional distribution channel, and even the news outlets’ attempts at open news systems are still relatively closed.” Further, the researchers find “no real route for citizen news to move into traditional outlets…Even looking at systems such as iReport and uReport that were established specifically to create a route for citizen news to get into the mainstream, the results seem to be very limited.”
“Accuracy, Independence and Impartiality: How Legacy Media and Digital Natives Approach Standards in the Digital Age”: From Reuters Institute at Oxford University, by Kellie Riordan. Riordan examines the ethical and transparency-related practices of six outlets — The Guardian, The New York Times, the BBC, Quartz, BuzzFeed, and Vice News. She praises emerging models of transparency embodied by the likes of Quartz — with its links to primary sources, and “swift, native correction of mistakes, with context” — but also warns that “speed and virality can threaten fairness and accuracy.” Further, she advocates that “native advertising should be labeled and distinguished from editorial content, even via search.” The paper highlights an important “third way” emerging in the world of journalism standards, a hybrid of old norms and new possibilities for transparency enabled by digital technology.
“Cynics and Skeptics: Evaluating the Credibility of Mainstream and Citizen Journalism”: From Susquehanna University and University of Wisconsin-Madison, published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. By D. Jasun Carr, Matthew Barnidge, Byung Gu Lee, and Stephanie Jean Tsang. The authors analyze results from an experiment embedded in a web survey conducted via Mechanical Turk, which yielded 184 responses. Not surprisingly, the degree to which respondents trust what they read comes down to their pre-existing attitudes: “[C]ynics and skeptics found citizen journalism more credible than mainstream journalism, while non-cynics and non-skeptics expressed the opposite.” Ultimately, the researchers conclude that “in an era of proliferating sources of news and information, especially on the Internet, people may distinguish less and less between mainstream and alternative sources of news and information, at least on the aggregate level.” But they concede that the citizen journalism they tested “remained relatively close to traditional news presentation formats.” In any case, the idea that cynics and skeptics might re engage with news, albeit produced by amateurs and non-traditional sources, sounds a hopeful note, the scholars suggest.
“Code, Collaboration and the Future of Journalism”: A case study of the Hacks/Hackers global network: From the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and George Washington University, published in Digital Journalism. By Seth C. Lewis and Nikki Usher. The researchers performed a two-year qualitative study of the group Hacks/Hackers in order to derive some insights about the intersection of journalism and technology. They interviewed people from dozens of chapters to examine the group’s sociology and culture. Occasionally, Lewis and Usher detected sticking points: “A number of chapters found it difficult to develop a common language for translating that purpose toward productive ends, converting talk into action. Some of the problems related to technical jargon that developers knew and journalists did not; others were about differences in thinking — such as journalists’ concern with short-term, one-off stories compared to developers’ interest in long-term, ongoing software development.” Where there were structured activities and regular meetings, it seemed, increased understanding prevailed, and some chapters saw lots of “common ground of mutual appreciation.” Institutional backing from local media outlets and technology organizations promotes more active meetings. “News innovation may be a common cause,” the scholars conclude, “but what that means and how it serves as a rallying cry is quite complicated, and it is important to hold back on some of the unbridled enthusiasm for the potential fusion of technologists sharing with journalists, despite the clear potential this may offer to journalism.”
“Data Journalism in the United States: Beyond the ‘Usual Suspects’”: From Pace University and College of Staten Island (CUNY), published in Journalism Studies. By Katherine Fink and C. W. Anderson. Fink and Anderson conducted 23 interviews with people involved in data journalism. Although they found some thematically linked sets of skills and roles, they also “discovered that there were some fairly profound differences between the way that data journalism was practiced at larger, more resource rich news organizations and the compromises required to practice data journalism at smaller newspapers.” Data journalism positions could be high- or low-ranking within news organizations; journalists might function in teams, or mostly alone — “one-man bands.” Time pressures can shape data story selection, interviews say. So, on occasion, do the pressures of management: “Three out of the 23 journalists we interviewed said they felt pressured to make story choices based on what they thought would drive online traffic. One journalist said his newsroom was highly focused on generating pageviews.” Small and medium outlets have had trouble dedicating the necessary resources to keep data journalists on staff, the researchers found, noting, “economic downturn at many American news organizations has had a deleterious impact on the production of data journalism.”
“Of Big Birds and Bayonets: Hybrid Twitter interactivity in the 2012 presidential debates”: From American University and George Washington University, published in Information, Communication & Society. By Deen Freelon and David Karpf. Freelon and Karpf analyze patterns across 1.9 million tweets during the most recent presidential debates to see how certain memes (“Big Bird” and “horses and bayonets”) proliferated across the Twitter-sphere. The study feeds into questions and debates into how social media networks behave during times of mass events, and how elites and average users interact. The scholars coin the term “bridging elite” to describe persons with large audiences who enable messages to be broadcast beyond narrow cliques and filter bubbles. (An example in the study is a former wrestler whose funny tweet happened to cascade across network hubs.) “[W]e see evidence that during media spectacles, political elites are not the only commentators that matter,” Freelon and Karpf conclude. “Political Twitter is not solely the reserve of ‘hyperactive reporters and short attention-span political junkies.’ It is also where actors, comedians, athletes, hip-hop artists and ordinary citizens come to opine on politics.” Moreover, humor plays a unique role in information sharing in this new “hybrid” media environment.
“Infoboxes and cleanup tags: Artifacts of Wikipedia newsmaking”: From the University of Oxford, published in Journalism. By Heather Ford. If we take journalism’s job to be explaining what just happened, few “outlets” have bigger scale and more visibility than a given Wikipedia page on an event. Given that, it’s perhaps not a stretch to study Wikipedia as the locus of a novel newsmaking process — and an important one. Ford looks at the practices and mechanisms (e.g., infoboxes and cleanup tags) of contributions and editing by studying the construction of the “2011 Egyptian Revolution” page and interviewing some of the editors involved. Internal turf battles unfolded, and the newsmaking and documentary process were quite messy. “Editors continuously added cleanup tags relating to the instability of the article due to its current event status and what they believed to be attacks against NPOV [neutral point of view] at a time when the article was highly unstable,” Ford writes. “Cleanup tags were consistently removed because editors argued that they ‘were already working on the issues’ noted in the tags. Yet the removal of such tags to the casual reader may give the illusion of a return to stability before such stability had been reached. In the context of this article, battle over the visibility of cleanup tags could be seen as reflective of personal battles between editors, and less about warning readers of possible problems.”
“The Twitterization of News Making: Transparency and Journalistic Professionalism”: From the University of Graz, published in the Journal of Communication. By Matthias Revers. Revers conducted hundreds of hours of observation at the New York State Capitol between 2009 and 2011, focusing on journalistic tweeting habits as they developed. He also interviewed media members and political communications persons as part of the case study. He details the widely differing views among journalists about professional boundaries and notions of serving the public. Traditional norms gave way before the researcher’s eyes. “Journalists of this study felt less bound to keep themselves, their appreciation of others and assessments out of tweets, contrary to requirements of authoritative distance, competitive lines of division and stringent notions of objectivity,” Revers writes. “The faceless gatekeeper has given way to a more human and status-equal interlocutor who shares expertise and informed judgments.”
“The Future of Breaking News Online? A Study of Live Blogs Through Surveys of Their Consumption, and of Readers’ Attitudes and Participation”: From City University London, published in Journalism Studies. By Neil Thurman and Nic Newman. Thurman and Newman set out to analyze the significance of live blogs for news organizations and to examine audience responses to them. They base their analysis on a survey involving more than 11,000 respondents across nine countries, as well as analytics data from Guardian.co.uk and ScribbleLive. The survey suggests that about 15 percent of news consumers access live blogs on a weekly basis; a “clear majority” of respondents said that live blogs are more balanced than regular news articles. However, “close to a third of readers found that live blogs’ formatting could make them difficult to understand.” In terms of citizen participation, the web analytics yielded mixed results: “Live blogs hosted by ScribbleLive and analysed for this article show 21 percent to 50 percent reader contributions compared with live blogs at Guardian.co.uk where tweets and ‘above the line’ comments from readers make up just 7.5 percent of the total number of live blog updates.” These differences, Thurman and Newman write, may suggest that two distinct models of live blogging are emerging, with the degree of crowdsourced participation as the key variable. However, despite the innovations around this “new news format,” it’s unclear how long the trend can last, as “a key question for mainstream media in their development of live blogs is how to keep up with social media platforms like Twitter, not just in terms of speed, but also in terms of the inclusion of images and video.”
Photo by Anna Creech used under a Creative Commons license.

More people around the world are getting news on phones, but paying for it is still rare

News consumers are getting more mobile — but they’re not opening up their wallets much further. That’s according to a new survey published today by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford. Smartphones continue to take a bigger share of our attention: 37 percent of survey respondents said they access news on a phone at least once a week, and 20 percent said they primarily accessed news via mobile devices. But the percentage of readers who actually pay for news has remained stagnant. smartphone_tablet users “People talk about smartphones and tablets together, but I think the smartphone is really the disruptor,” said digital strategist Nic Newman, one of the paper’s co-authors. He noted that tablet users tend to skew older. “It’s so much more mobile, and so much more personal.” The survey asked respondents about their news habits in the United States, the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Brazil’s urban areas. Even in Japan and Finland — two countries with traditionally strong print cultures — people under the age of 45 access more of their news online than in print. Finland_Japan Still, only 11 percent of survey respondents said they paid for online news in the past year:
But after a sharp upturn in 2012–13 — when a large number of paywalls were introduced — our data show very little change in the absolute number of people paying for digital news over the past year. In most countries the number paying for any news is hovering around 10% of online users and in some cases less than that. Even so, our findings are consistent with the recent Pew research report in the United States which suggests that industry activity does not necessarily mean more individuals are paying for news but rather that ‘more revenue is being squeezed out of a smaller, or at least flat, number of paying consumers’.

“There’s a group of about 10 percent who are very interested in news,” Newman said. “A lot of those are the people who are paying for news. If you’re casually interested in news, why would you pay for it when you can get it for free?” Among those who don’t pay for news, the percentage who said they would consider paying in the future varied from country to country. While 61 percent of Brazilian respondents said they would think about paying for access to news in the future, only 7 percent of British respondents said they would pay:
The low figures for the likelihood to pay in the future (for those not already paying) make particularly worrying reading in the UK and may be explained by the abundant supply of quality free news from the BBC, Sky, Mail Online, and the Guardian. But in other markets such as (urban) Brazil, Spain, and Italy there is more potential for growth.
The full report — 93 pages and even more charts — is available here, but here are five findings we found particularly interesting.

Social media use differs greatly among countries

How people consume news on social media varies wildly from country to country, though there is one constant: Facebook. 60 percent of all respondents said they use Facebook, and 57 percent of those who use Facebook said they use it to consume news. Compare that with only 19 percent of respondents who said they use Twitter. (But 50 percent of those Twitter users said they use the platform for news.) The other main social media outlets for news are YouTube and Google Plus, which is big in Finland: 30 percent of Finnish respondents said they use Google Plus, with 11 percent saying they use it for news. SocialMedia_all countries RandomSocialNetworksBeyond these main social media platforms, many people use social media platforms that are popular in their own individual country for news. This means it might be more challenging for some larger international news organizations that are trying to draw in readers via social media, Newman said. “It makes it very difficult if you’re trying to be a global publisher,” he said. But what Newman said the researchers found most surprising about how people are sharing content is the extent to which they use messaging apps like WhatsApp to share news. In Spain, for example, 60 percent of respondents said they use WhatsApp, with 26 percent saying they use it for news. A high percentage of WhatsApp users in Brazil and Germany also said they were using it for news. Whatsapp or news - Social Network 4

News apps are often the main way people access mobile news

The latest trend in web design is mobile responsive sites, but the survey found that many people still access news on their mobile device via apps. In the UK, for example, 47 percent of smartphone users said they mostly use apps for news on their device — that’s a 6 percent increase from last year, and higher than the share who said they stick mostly to the web browser (38 percent). The authors of the study were surprised by this finding, especially because of the advent of responsive design:
To some extent these data may reflect the strong penetration in the UK of Apple smartphones, which have tended to favour the use of apps. By contrast, in Finland where many people use Nokia phones, the use of apps on smartphones is far lower (around 30%), with most users preferring their web browser for news.

People use fewer news sources on mobile

The limited real estate on a phone screen and the more personalized nature of a smartphone may be responsible for people limiting the number of news sources they use on their mobile devices. 37 percent of respondents said they just use one source of news on their mobile devices, compared to 30 percent who only use one source on a computer. sourcesperdevice But that doesn’t mean those that who are accessing only one news outlet via smartphone aren’t getting other sources of news on other platforms:
But multi-platform is not just about digital news. Across all of our countries, an average of 50% of those who access news on a tablet say they also read a printed newspaper at least once each week; 86% also watch TV news and we see similar patterns with smartphone users.

Users prefer text to visual content

Despite heavy investment from many news organizations in expanding their video and photo capabilities, most global news consumers still spend more time getting their news via text — traditional articles and lists — though video usage is higher in some countries, particularly the United States and Brazil. VideoVsText The survey asked respondents in five countries (the U.S., the U.K., Finland, Spain, and Germany) more detailed questions on video news. 24 percent of respondents, especially older participants, said they would rather watch video on larger screens while 18 percent, predominantly younger people, did not like how long it takes for videos to load online. VideoPreferences

Viral content is spreading

Both BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post have several international editions and the type of “fun” viral content that they specialize in is becoming more commonplace around the globe. These types of stories — i.e. 27 Things That Are So Weird When You Actually Think About Them — are particularly popular in Japan, France, and Italy. FunNews by country Overall, these types of stories are more popular than celebrity and entertainment news, according to the survey, because they interest both young men and women, whereas celebrity news predominantly interests women. News_Gender
Photo of a newsstand by Steve Bowbrick used under a Creative Commons license.

Media predictions for 2014 from across the Atlantic

A week into 2014 is a little late for media predictions, but Nic Newman’s report on the year ahead is still worth a read. Newman is a research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, so it’s an especially good read if you want a British perspective on multi-screen news consumption, the disruption of television, trends in longform, data as content, and more. For example:

Most recent content innovations have been on the left hand side of the Quartz Curve/Newitz Napkin, but in 2014 we can expect more innovations in long-form, both from a content and experience point of view. The move to social, ‘peer-to-peer’ distribution means that good content rises to the top regardless of length. An improved reading experience on tablets and tools that let you save content for offline reading are also contributing to a revived taste for substance. To some extent this is also a reaction to a ‘collapse of narrative’, one of the central themes of Douglas Rushkoff’s new book Present Shock. Rushkoff argues that we live in an ‘always-on’ world, where the priorities of the moment are distorting good judgement.

If you missed them in the pre-holiday rush, check our our own collection of predictions for 2014 in journalism.