Will 2020 Be the Year We Kill the News Article?

Emily Withrow, R&D Director at Quartz, writes on Nieman lab that:

“This year, we retire the news article as the default unit of journalism. It had a good run, but it’s a relic of distribution, audience, and revenue models that no longer function the way they used to”

This is a bold and provocative statement, and her reasoning in the article is intriguing.
The “news article” format can be seen in some ways as a relic of the print media world. It carried over into digital as it was the logical way to translate news content onto the new medium, but is it fit for the 2020s?
It’s a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that in the end doesn’t really fit anyone perfectly. Emily also argues that:

“It places a heavy burden on the reader/viewer/listener/user to do the work of sifting through the story and mapping it to other relevant content and information. It asks our audience to identify the new information and skim over the old”

The onus is on the reader to get the context they need to truly understand the latest developments in an ongoing story, and to rely on headlines and teasers to decide whether the piece is worth their time and effort.
What kind of new formats will emerge to make better experiences for readers and more successful products for publishers?

This year, we’ll continue to see forward-thinking outlets discard the news article in favor of more dynamic formats that place the individual at the center of the story and news product.

What’s needed is a more personalised approach that really makes proper use of technology. Audience members’ needs shift throughout the day and the week, so really understanding that on a deep and individual level, then catering to it is also a major area of improvement.

Quartz themselves have been experimenting a lot lately, launching a host of podcasts and newsletters that give audience members much more control over the content and topics they choose to engage with.
It’s also interesting to see the emergence of “slow news” in this context. Tortoise media are a great example, their product is centred around an app that acts as the “hub” of their brand for members. They have moved away from just having a series of articles, and have created a complete news “experience” through multiple formats on the app.
Previously on our podcast we interviewed Becky Pallack, product manager for the Arizona Daily Star. She spoke a lot about lean innovation in the newsroom, and how publishers can take a more scientific and effective approach to designing news products.

“This is a new way of thinking for a lot of legacy news organisations – for a long time we’ve done things with the ‘build it and they’ll come” mentality. Lean innovation really can help newsrooms to innovate without a lot of waste. We don’t have time and money to waste and this framework can help us get to the future faster”

Emily echoed this in her article on Nieman Lab, confirming that an innovative and more entrepreneurial approach will shape the future of news.

“Successful news organizations will adopt a more nimble product approach — building a culture and habit of quick experimentation and establishing that expectation with readership, opening channels for conversations about those experiments and how they might improve”

Listening to your audience and taking the time to really understand their needs will always be the most important thing.
Make them feel like they are part of the process, not a part of the product!