Publications strive to diversify content over multimedia platforms as the face of the nation—and journalism—changes.
The approximately 300 attendees of the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) Convention, held July 10–12, 2014, in Nashville, TN, walked away with a sense of optimism and responsibility regarding the future of journalism after three days of extensive workshops and presentations. The overwhelming theme of this year’s convention focused on the realism that our industry will continue to move further into digitization, and the publications that succeed will be the ones with the ability to repurpose their content (as art and commerce) across multiple platforms, including print, digital and mobile efforts.
As staffs continue to shrink, AAN speakers urged, we (as members of the media) must learn to rely more on in-house collaboration and “design-thinking” across departments, so editors, designers and advertisers all better understand each other’s purpose and are able to support one another in new and innovative ways. We must learn to love external collaborations too, reaching out to community organizations for partnerships and sponsorships, and creating a deeper user content experience by offering interactive events (such as publication-sponsored craft beer and handmade arts fairs, or music festivals) that become a physical place where journalists and designers all meet and connect with their readers.
Working with leaner staffs also requires us to place more trust in freelancers to produce content, so we are able to continue flexing our creative muscles to speak truths, uphold social justice, build community, enhance culture, provide a richer quality of life and preserve long-form journalism. We must also realize that the “back” of the book is just as important as the front.
Know Thy Reader
If we are to continue to survive and thrive, we must really get to know our readers like never before—to immerse ourselves in their lives, their desires, their emotions. As the U.S. population becomes more of a mosaic, rather than a melting pot; 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day; and Millennials (young adults) embrace advancements in technology and reach traditional milestones such as marriage and birthing children at later stages in life, people’s perspectives on life, their needs and the way they use and consume the news differs from anything we’ve ever experienced before. We must look to our readers to guide us on how to best disseminate information, and how to interact with them if we want to keep this business alive.
Ultimately, we still represent the “free press”—even if many of us are now under corporate ownership. We must not be afraid to experiment and take risks—even if those risks fail—until we find what works.
Design and editorially speaking, the winners of this year’s AAN Awards have found what works best by engaging readers with well-executed original content. After all, “in the end,” according to Knight Chair of Journalism Penny Muse Abernathy, “it’s still about storytelling.”
See the list of the 2014 AAN award winners here.
For the next nine weeks, I’ll be posting a new journalism-related blog every Thursday based on the information I learned at the AAN Convention 2014. These blogs are meant to offer helpful insights into the world of storytelling for writers and editors, designers and marketing professionals.
What you’ll read:
July 24, 2014: Staying Relevant to Readers and Advertisers in a Digital Age
July 31, 2014: Media Ownership: Sharing Best Practices
Aug. 7, 2014: Embracing the Entrepreneurial Mindset
Aug. 14, 2014: Big Ideas in the Future of Journalism
Aug. 21, 2014: Create a Captivating Reader Experience through Design
Aug. 28, 2014: A Growing Mosaic: Changing Demographics Across the U.S.
Sept. 4, 2014: Meeting Challenges: An Innovation Toolkit
Sep. 11, 2014: Long-Form Journalism: The Art of Storytelling
Sep. 18, 2014: The Need for Design Thinking
Please read and share. And don’t forget to hug a journalist today!