The 5 Ways the News Industry Will Change

The news industry has and will continue to undergo dramatic changes in terms of the content it provides and the manner in which it provides it. Some trends, such as increases in mobile usage, social media-optimized content, and video, have already been well publicized. However, other trends will also play a major role in shaping the news industry but are not getting as much attention.

1)      Data analysis of common events

News stories are often presented in an isolated fashion with little or no reference to similar events. Consumers would benefit from answers to questions such as “How common is this event?” and “How severe is this event compared to similar events?” I developed a daily tornado tracking analysis that allows me to simply, clearly, and cleanly track U.S. tornado fatalities relative to prior years. Additional metrics are on the way (below is the chart as of June 4, 2013; original post here):

2013 Tornado Fatality Statistics as of 6/4/13

2013-06-05 Tornado Fatalities

2)      Proprietary metrics to analyze the news

Using existing data without adjustment often fails to provide news consumers with a clear enough understanding of events. Intelligent news organizations will develop proprietary metrics to better inform news consumers about the significance of certain events.

For example, the severity of tornado outbreaks can be difficult for news consumers to assess besides through simplistic measures such as the number of tornadoes.  I am building a proprietary measure called the AW Potential Outbreak Severity Index in order to rank the severity of different tornado outbreaks. For example, which is a more severe outbreak, three EF2 tornadoes, two EF3 tornadoes, or one EF4 tornado? Using an early version of my metric, one EF4 tornado is potentially more severe than two EF3 tornadoes which are potentially more severe than three EF2 tornadoes. The measure is based upon the expected number of fatalities from a given outbreak:

Potential Outbreak severity index

Source: NWS; AnalysisWire Research

Note: Index will change as additional improvements are made.

3)      Applying Analytical Tools to Social Media Photos and Videos of News Scenes

Some fear that news organizations will be displaced by crowd-sourced forms of journalism. Though crowd-sourced journalism is a trend that will likely grow, smart news organizations will cull social media images, eyewitness accounts, and video to not only show events, but also to provide deeper insight into a situation.

I used live affiliate coverage, social media photos, and Google Maps to estimate the length of the section of the I-5 bridge that collapsed in Washington on May 23, 2013. I estimated a length of 160 feet, which turned out to be correct. Many similar exercises, such as estimating length, width, distance, and number of people in a crowd can be performed remotely in a rapid manner.

Skagit River Bridge

Source:  Google Maps

Additional trends: I am already taking advantage of the three trends listed above. The below trends are not yet available or are beyond the core capabilities of AnalysisWire, but savvy news organizations will be employing these tools in the near future.

4)      Real-time capture of news events

Traffic cameras, weather cameras, and other stationary cameras are ubiquitous, but news organizations generally don’t take full advantage of them. Smart news organizations will record these cameras around the clock and collect footage as stories dictate.  Examples include time-lapse video of weather events (already being employed to a limited degree) and showing the shaking caused by earthquakes, even the smaller ones that strike California on a regular basis.

5)      Drones

Drones are already thought to be important to the future of news organizations for several obvious reasons:

  • they provide aerial views that are often more compelling than ground views
  • they are cheaper than manned helicopters
  • they can be used for more dangerous assignments since human lives on a news chopper aren’t at stake
  • several drones from the same organization could cover the same news event from different angles, whereas most organizations only have one news helicopter, if that

Fewer people appreciate the more important and valuable aspects of drones:

  • Drones will gather data and images to be analyzed using proprietary methods, such as using algorithms to automatically assess damage from images of a natural disaster.
  • Drones can be used to facilitate real-time information, estimating information such as the direction of a tornado or the speed with which a brush fire will move toward homes.

These and other trends will become more apparent in the coming years.

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