Friday, January 28, 2011

CRUNCH on THIS: Future of Journalism

I recently attended CRUNCH on THIS: Future of Journalism event held on January 14th. The purpose of this event was to identify new media tools and strategies that are available to journalists, and to determine how these tools can be applied in practical but innovative ways. Gabriel Kahn, Roberto Suro and Dana Chinn posed three challenges to the participants. I thought I'd share them with you here as they warrant additional exploration and discussion.

Three Challenges

1. Curation (Gabriel Kahn)

In the past, the newspaper was the sole determiner and responsible to curate and edit the news we consume. With the advent of self-organizing aggregation type tools, such as Google and Yahoo news, the need for additional ways to curate information has increased. Wikipedia and Twitter have become easily recognizable groups as sources for news. Additional sites, such as Digg, Instapaper, Flipboard, Pearltrees, Storify, theatlanticwire, and BBCmobile show that the public seeks immediate, inclusive warehouses of information that they can access, tag, and store for their own uses. Many of these platforms encourage the community to not only rate what news is credible but to be make connections across different news topics. The major question facing the Innovation Lab is how to manage the amount of information available so that it is easily consumable.

2. Data Mining (Roberto Suro)

The question posed is: How can we organize, compress and analyze information quickly? IBM has created an extensive data mining platform and partnered with the Innovation Lab to develop projects to explore how to 1) capture data, 2) filter, analyze and categorize it, and 3) create a dictionary of data that can be used in exploring visualizations, a visual narrative that helps us make sense of large quantities of data and new ways to identify patterns and emerging trends. The information is filtered from spreadsheets called Big Tables that link all references and cache the information to build a visual narrative. Many of the data sets are aggregated from sites that foster audience participation like Twitter and Wikipedia.

The challenge here is to identify, as an audience, what we need to know, what new ways we can tell our stories, and how our audience will feel about the stories we are to tell (see,, and for examples of data that has been captured through visualizations).

3. How to Connect with Your Audience (Dana Chinn)

The rules of social media require 1) listening, 2) engaging, and 3) measuring your audience’s engagement, loyalty, influence, and action. For example, let us assume that you run a member-based organization that has set a goal of increasing membership among 20-30 year olds by 10 % within 12 months. Through Facebook and Twitter, the organization can map the metrics of increased youth membership and receive immediate feedback on any issue associated with membership among this group. Other resources to analyze authentic participation include and

The challenge here is to identify what actions indicate audience engagement. Do the daily stats from Facebook or Twitter really measure what we want to know? Numbers can be deceiving if you do not know what to look for or how to assess the right metrics. Suppose we want to know how engaged our members are in our print and digital publications. It is not enough to identify the number of hits on the NewsBlog, Facebook and Twitter; we need to examine the daily stats in terms of a) number of users, 2) the number of likes noted by the users, and 3) the number of comments presented by the users and the division of those comments into separate categories. To check on if numbers are telling the correct story, questions to consider include:

    • Are the comments mostly from the same person?
    • Do they focus on one or two topics only?
    • How can we really know the influencers of our publications without harvesting and filtering the most usable information so that we can use it as a tool for strategic planning?
How does this information relate to you?

These are a few examples of ways to reach the widest possible audience using tools that will gather, categorize, and validate information. Social media tools, beyond Facebook and Twitter, are readily available for us to mine data about our audience and apply it in ways that further your goals and viable applications for researching the needs of your members to help build community. Check them out and learn how to apply them for mining data and presenting yourself or your organization in ways that will stimulate audience engagement.