News media and technology

My research interests center around how technology and journalism interact. Specifically, I look at the ways that analytics, automation, and other web technologies shape the production, distribution, and presentation of the news we read every day. While these aspects touch all kinds of digital media, I have a strong interest in applying my findings to making local news media more sustainable.

Production

Analytics technologies let journalists see what readers are clicking on, shaping what kinds of stories get covered and how they're written. With tools like headline A/B testing, editors can fine-tune aspects of a story to match what the audience will respond to. These technologies represent a radical departure from the traditional emphasis on editorial judgment, one that deserves further study.

Questions: How do newsrooms incorporate new technology into their workflows? Have analytics changed the way journalists write? Where can technology make the process of reporting and writing more efficient and effective?

Publications:

  • Hagar, N., & Diakopoulos, N. (2019). Optimizing Content with A/B Headline Testing: Changing Newsroom Practices. Media and Communication, 7(1), 117.https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i1.1801 [Link | PDF]

Distribution

Publishers depend on big platforms like Facebook and Google for traffic, but maintaining a presence on the many different social media and distribution sites where readers look for information is a time- and resource-consuming process. Some third party tools help manage the process of writing and scheduling posts, but significant barriers remain for news organizations that can't employ dedicated social media managers. Automation is a potential avenue for evening the distribution playing field.

Questions: What role can automation play in distributing news to social media? How do readers find new sources of information? How do newsrooms conceptualize their relationships with distribution platforms?

Presentation

The web has created new kinds of storytelling, most notably interactive data visualization. At the same time, the basic presentation of news articles—a headline, a photo, and some paragraphs of text—has remained largely unchanged from the print newspaper. Finding new ways to convey information online could increase journalism's impact for the average reader and spur even more innovative types of storytelling.

Questions: What kinds of presentation do readers find most trustworthy? Are there web-specific methods to convey important news in a more informative way? How does technology play into the process of reporting live and breaking news?