VOCER hosted its 4th Innovation Day at DER SPIEGEL’s headquarter in Hamburg on Saturday 11th November. As the event drew to an end, attendees left with new insights and ideas around digital transformation in news publishing, and how to use data to innovate in an ever changing tech landscape. As sponsors and active participants of the event, here are our key takeaways.
Monika Bäuerlein, CEO of progressive US magazine Mother Jones focused her Ignite Talk on the topic Can Trump save journalism? The press has been both punching bag and beneficiary in the age of Trump. As a journalist she highlighted the need to pay attention to all spectrums of news, and not settle for the cosy option of staying inside a liberal echo chamber.
To put the beneficial part in context, the New York Times alone now has 2.3 million digital-only subscribers since Donald Trump’s election, a growth of 62% compared to the same period last year. Bäuerlein extended on this by sharing Mother Jones’ main revenue streams, which shows 65% of revenues comes from a combination of reader donation and subscriptions revenues.
When asked by a delegate about her views on automation in journalism, her response was “let robots do what they do well.” Retresco welcomes this view and highlighted in our opening address that automation is a big field. It goes far beyond robot journalism, an output powered by Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology. Data-driven products such as semantic applications and advanced analytics tools are all made possible by content automation.
An example is the algorithm developed and maintained by Retresco that supports DER SPIEGEL’s 70-person strong fact-checking team called dokumentation. Dr. Hauke Janssen, head of dokumentation described it to Digiday as “a research instrument to organize information in a differentiated way, better than Google can.” This is an example of what robots do well.
Data was a common theme in this year’s conference. Adam Thomas, director at the European Journalism Centre and Daniel Fiene, editor from Rheinishce Post in separate sessions discussed data analytics tools for the newsroom. The goal of these tools, whether developed in-house or with third parties such as CrowdTangle, is to provide journalists with access to rich, real-time data, helping them better understand the impact of stories, and how audiences are interacting with their journalism.
Some tools have been more successful than others with their adoption in the newsroom as well as across commercial and product teams. Our key takeaways:
In short, VOCER Innovation Day 2017 centered around data-driven journalism. We enjoyed seeing debates around how to get readers to pay for news, and how this fits with the positive trend of an increasing number of people willing to pay to read news in a digital format.
If it were up to us, next year we would like dig deeper into the following areas addressed in this year’s Reuters Digital News Report:
Being data-driven helps publishers enhance audience engagement, and continues to show great promise. Innovation is not slowing down. Startups like Retresco have things that publishers need: talent with intimate knowledge of emerging technologies, flexibility to fail fast, change course, and scale at breakneck speed. This is why publishers should work with technology vendors to keep up and embrace change if they want to stay competitive.