News Industry Trends to Watch in 2012

As the end of the year approaches, it’s a time when we look back at the past year to see where we have been and anxiously look forward to see where we can go next year. The Hub has put together some trends to watch out for in the news industry in 2012. You may find this list provides inspiration to you and your staff to implement some of these trends in the New Year!

Collaboration. This year we have seen several news organizations experimenting with new forms of collaboration within the news organization, news unit and with other news entities in the same town or across the country. For example, a collaboration (that was set up prior to this year) that was abuzz this year was the unique partnership between non-profit, investigative news organization Voice of San Diego and the local NBC news television station in San Diego. The collaboration allowed both news organizations to share resources, distribute news and information across both news platforms, and collaborate on newsgathering and reporting.

NBC saw potential in this kind of collaboration and as part of the deal Comcast made with the FCC to broaden its local news coverage, NBC recently announced partnerships with other nonprofit news organizations and other NBC television markets outside of California.

In 2012, collaborative agreements like these (among for-profit and non-profit as well as between media platform/type) will continue to occur and in some cases, will become a necessity for news organizations in order to survive in the communities they serve.

Data. Data was everywhere this year. Next year, data and database reporting will continue to gain importance in newsrooms across the country. The opportunity and challenge will be the ways that news entities can make the most out of the databases and data they have by offering up the data to readers to explore, making meaning out of the data for the reader, and identifying ways to monetize the data and databases for use by different groups, individuals, and organizations.

Transparency. In 2012, journalistic transparency will become more important than ever before. This level of transparency will include ways of allowing the public to know how the news reporting and gathering is done. A key trend to watch next year is how news entities will find interesting and interactive ways to allow this transparency to come to life for the public. In the latter part of this year, ProPublica experimented with a tool to help with the transparency of documenting sources in a story through the use of DocumentCloud to show the reader where the reporter obtained information in the actual story without leaving the web page. In 2012, news organizations that know how to innovate when it comes to journalistic transparency will be one step ahead of the rest.

Education and training. In 2012, news organizations have the chance to take the information and knowledge they have and transfer it into educational opportunities for the communities they serve. For example, news organizations can host workshops and seminars on specific topics for different kinds of groups on a variety of topics throughout the year. It helps to build a different level of community engagement and provides a significant public service to the community they serve.

This year the Voice of San Diego hosted two local high school workshops for journalism students to help them understand how to do news reporting and gathering for their high school newspapers. The workshops were free for the students and it created a new connection for the Voice of San Diego in the community with a younger age group while serving an educational purpose at the same time. (Note of disclosure: The author taught a session on multimedia journalism to the students at both of the workshops.)

News organizations have the opportunity in 2012 to experiment with other kinds of educational opportunities that go beyond typical training. Earlier this year, California Watch did a large investigative story on the seismic safety of California’s public schools and to help reach as many groups as possible about the story they created a coloring book for youth on earthquake safety. The coloring book became a popular request with pre-orders originally estimated around 28,000 according to Megan Garber of Nieman Labs in a April blog post.

Coloring books are just one way of educating a younger segment of the population in a fun and entertaining way. Expect to see more of these kinds of educational and training opportunities by news organizations (for-profit and non-profit) in 2012.

Research and Development (R&D). In 2012, the need to innovate will become important than ever for news entities in the United States. As many news organizations (non-profit and for-profit) seek ways to maintain and grow their readership/viewership while sustaining their operation, it will become necessary to identify ways to seek out new channels for informing, distributing and presenting news and information to their local communities. The role of the R&D department/unit will become a new area for many news organizations or for those with an existing R&D unit, more resources will be devoted to this area of the newsroom. For example, The New York Times' R&D unit (in operation since 2006) remains a successful case study because it continues to experiment with new ways of storytelling and distributing the news. Currently, they are investigating ways to tie journalism, information and data to ubiquitous computing. In 2012, R&D units whether comprised of one person or several people, will become a powerful resource and innovative hub for those news organizations that see its potential.

Collaboration, data, education, and research and development will be key trends to watch in the news industry in 2012. They may become new areas of experimentation and opportunity for your news organization and staff.

As a final note, the Hub would like to wish everyone a successful 2012!

About Amy Schmitz Weiss

Amy Schmitz Weiss is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University. Schmitz Weiss is a 2011 Dart Academic Fellow and has a PhD in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches journalism courses in basic writing and editing, multimedia, web design, data journalism, and mobile journalism. She is also the 2011-2012 Recipient of the AEJMC Bridge Grant with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that led to the creation of a mobile news app, AzteCast for the San Diego State University campus population in spring 2012. She also is a former journalist who has been involved in new media for more than a decade. She has worked in business development, marketing analysis and account management for several Chicago Internet media firms. Her research interests include online journalism, media sociology, news production, multimedia journalism, and international communication. She is also a regular blog contributor to the Investigative News Network, a resource center for community-based and nonprofit journalism.