Nieman Lab’s 2016 Product Predictions

This past December, the Nieman Lab rounded up more than 100 predictions for 2016 about the news business — its people, its economics and, of course, the craft of storytelling itself. As the editors described it:

Each year, we ask some of the smartest people in journalism and digital media what they think is coming in the next 12 months. Here’s what they had to say.

Of the pieces, a few are particularly relevant to those of us working on products related to content creation and publishing. For example, how can we support the unique needs of small, local media outlets? How should our technology grow in light of new publishing platforms such as Facebook’s Instant Articles? And if the homepage is less relevant than ever, how can our products increase engagement on article pages?

Lots to ponder as we face the unwritten page that is 2016. Some highlights from Nieman’s report:


Rise of the platform: “The coming year will see more companies abandon websites altogether to save costs, pouring all resources into media creation and leaving presentation and distribution entirely to outside platforms. … The hot new job next year in distributed media companies will be platform partnerships manager — the person who acts as the interface between editorial, technology, and outside partners.”

Platforms, take 2: “By 2016, most content will be consumed … on other people’s platforms. … It’s early still, but (a) our content is being viewed at a higher volume than before, and (b) we’re monetizing those views at a higher rate.”

Frictionless video: “In 2016, push video will get smarter. It will know what to suggest and when we’re most likely to watch and participate.”

Botification: “It will be the use of bots in news that will be a major development in 2016. … Next year, we’ll start seeing the emergence of fully fledged AI personal assistants.”


There’s revenue in quality: “People — lots of people, of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and nationalities — will pay money for good content.”

Monetizing your tribe: “There’s a far more important game to be played in 2016 underpinning all the forward-looking business models and technologies: Everyone will be trying to win over and monetize a loyal base of readers or viewers.”

A better metric of success: “In 2016, data will be used to define a metric that publishers and platforms can both stand behind and use to measure success much more meaningfully.”

Small-publisher success: “In 2016, we’ll move beyond isolated examples to see a growing wave of small independent publishers launching publications and starting to achieve success.”

Local media 1: “As yesterday’s local media companies run toward digital models pioneered by Vox or The New York Times, they’re actually accelerating their death. But make no mistake, the financial rewards for building tomorrow’s Gannett, Lee, Tribune, and McClatchy are massive. … You’ll see BuzzFeed, Vox, and Vice acquire and actually listen to local media companies that are (a) growing and (b) profitable.”

Local media 2: “More and more, we’re seeing local news publishers putting the local back into news operations. Whether they’re members of Local Independent Online News Publishers or running other sorts of outlets, publishers who actually live in the communities their news organizations cover are showing the road to healthy, sustainable, and effective local news.

Local media 3: “Journalism that truly serves and invests in the public creates a virtuous feedback loop in which the public will invest in and protect the journalism.”


Podcasting matures: “As streaming on-demand content grows, we’ll see the rise of audio discovery outside of a dedicated app, and integrated into the ways we already share content on social streams, the open web, and on mobile.”

Static is the new interactive: “We’ve already started to realize that not everything needs to be interactive. In 2016, we’ll see the rise of static graphics as news organizations seek to create good mobile experiences.”

More VR: “People will be scanning their own environments with their phones, and virtually, instantaneously, hanging out in each others’ spaces. The scenes of major news stories will also be scanned, and audiences will be walking around ‘inside’ them rather than watching them on a screen.”

The article is readers’ point of entry: “It’s no longer the home page. … At this year’s Columbia University School of Journalism conference Journalism + Silicon Valley, a participant asked Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Co., to name his greatest challenge. His answer? ‘How do we get a person who reads one news story to read a second story in The New York Times?’ ”

Niche topic sites: “2016 will be a year of growth for subject-specific publishers, as broader audiences use single-topic sites for deep expertise on the issues that matter most to their families. Verticals are growing up.”

And, because we need some levity …

Realizing the Internet’s promise: “When 2016 draws to a close, we’ll look out at each other across that pulsing quasar of perfect connected knowledge and creative citizenry, and we’ll smile.”

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