What We Learned From ONA17 And How It Affects You

October 20th, 2017 - Written by Trint

In our last blog post, we covered Trint’s panel at ONA17. But now that ONA17 is officially over, we wanted to give you a taste of what we learned from the other sessions.

Let’s go over a few findings related to newsrooms, journalism, and the larger technology trends in media today. (To see everything that happened at ONA17, click here.)

The state of journalism today

In the opening keynote, an attendee tweeted the WiFi password at ONA17 was “friend of the people.” This really set the tone for much of the conference, and the keynote was no different. In the words of Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur), “You do have the power to change people.” Journalism is, at its heart, still about educating and informing the public.

ONA tackled many of the challenges faced by journalists today including not being as effective at reaching people as they once were.

In the Newsroom Technology session, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) survey was discussed. Every news organization surveyed identified a perilous digital skills gap in journalism. Or, as one presenter put it, “Journalists are not keeping up with the tech revolution.”

This sentiment was echoed in the Digital Journalism session as well. Speaker David Cohn (@digidave) put it best: “Right now, I see tech companies becoming media companies. Now, we need media companies to become tech companies.”

Finally, futurist Amy Webb (@amywebb) confronted the elephant in the room head-on during Tech Trends in Journalism. According to Amy, the current state of journalism is an event horizon. We are quickly reaching a point of no return with AI, automation, and ever-improving technology. Very soon, Amy warned her captive audience, robots may be coming for your jobs.

Of course, learning how technology could be better used to power media was one of the main draws of ONA17. How are newsrooms adjusting to the technology gap, and what tools can journalists and storytellers start using today to improve their workflows?

The changing nature of storytelling

We were very excited to see several ONA17 sessions were centered around the impact of technology and how storytelling is evolving to accommodate a shifting audience with shifting preferences.

In the Immersive Journalism session, for example, the presenters shared several tips and tricks for shooting 360 or VR video. Josh Davidsburg (@jdavidsburg) pointed out that, whether we like it or not, Facebook will be steering us all toward more immersive and VR-driven content in the near future. “We upload a 360 video to Facebook and we see engagement skyrocket.”

A big takeaway from the session was that no matter what type of content you’re producing, storytelling is especially important in nontraditional spaces.

This also applies 100% to creating accessible news for an audience with disabilities. In the News Accessibility session, the presenters reminded the audience that there was over 1 billion people in the world with disabilities. That’s a big audience that isn’t being properly served, and it’s precisely why creating more accessible content is a no-brainer.

Or, as Heather Billings (@hbillings) put it, “Charts are not accessible to people who can’t see them.”

Speaking of better accessibility to nontraditional storytelling mediums, in the session on Local Podcasting, speaker Nicholas Quah (@nwquah) revealed everything we needed to know about the growing popularity of podcasts with a single question. “Who here is an active podcast listener?” Nearly every hand went up.

The growing popularity of local podcasts comes with its own set of interesting considerations. Right now, listeners find out about new podcasts via word of mouth recommendations. The only way podcasters can even get their podcasts to show up in search results pages is by transcribing the podcast and then posting the text alongside the audio.

Obviously, this isn’t very efficient. It also points to the huge disparity between the growing popularity of audio-video content and a global inability to properly search for that content. How can we fix this? How do we solve this problem?

Technologies you can start using today

To get on the cutting edge of journalism and mixed media, you need to start small. And we don’t mean with 360-video, either—that may be well beyond your reach. Consider improving your workflows first.

In the Workflow Automation Tools session, Penny Riordan (@pennyriordan1) gave out a bunch of great advice. The problem with journalism and media production is that so much time is spent wrangling together resources that the story gets neglected. “Be hyper protective of your storytelling time,” she told everyone.

How do you do that? By embracing automation wherever you can find it. Automation opens up opportunities for journalists to do what they do best: tell stories that matter.

It’s fine if you don’t know how to code. Suggestions included trying out Zapier and If This Then That (IFTTT). Both tools help you create automated workflows between the various apps you use on a daily basis. They can help you save a ton of time.

And for transcription—another production task that can easily become a huge timesuck—there’s Trint. As Jeff explained in his session, Trint’s AI-powered platform can help journalists get their transcripts in record time. It can also help podcasters make their content more searchable and readable.

The future of journalism is bright

While there was certainly some anxiety at ONA17, the overriding sentiment was enthusiasm. Newsrooms know what they need to work on, and journalists are more excited than ever for new innovations and better ways to connect with their audience.

We had a blast at the conference, and we want to thank everyone who made it possible. And we can’t wait until next year (so we can go again).

For more on the services Trint offers head to https://trint.com/.

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