Yesterday, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism announced the 24 journalists who have been selected as members of the 77th class of Nieman Fellows. I’m excited to say that my name is on that list, alongside some truly inspiring-sounding journalists, editors, and others. I can’t wait to start this adventure in the fall.
I have proposed to use my time to ask one big, silly-sounding question: why do people follow the news?
As a business reporter, I ask startups all the time: Why does the market need your product? Who cares about this, and why will they buy what you’re selling? What are you giving them that they can’t get elsewhere?
We need to ask ourselves this question, too.
Within the media business, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking amongst ourselves about why we’d like people to follow the news, or why they should follow the news. We’ve also spent a lot of time looking at why people use specific news products: what platforms, devices, and media types they choose, or which sources they prefer. It’s these questions that have, largely, driven our industry’s efforts at innovation.
I agree that media has an important civic role. But I also believe that in order to play that role, we have to produce a product that our users actually want to consume. Both product innovation and business model innovation are needed to support that goal. If we can identify better articulate how news meets our audience’s needs, perhaps we can identify business models that reward reader*-centric models of reporting and distribution.
I’m very much looking forward to figuring out how to dig into this question and what can be done with the answers that arise. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s interested in collaborating or discussing!
* reader or viewer or listener or … whatever