Sunday 30th April, 2017
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How audience inclusion in key journalistic decisions can increase engagement

How audience inclusion in key journalistic decisions can increase engagement

Are you a reporter who wishes you could know before you reported a story if it was of real relevance and use to your audience? For­mer journalist Jennifer Bran­del, now CEO and founder of Hearken, feels your pain and has a solution for you.
“As a reporter in Chicago, I was always running from one story to another and won­dering if what I was assigned was really the information the community needed,” Brandel­said.
And so came about Hear­ken. In Brandel’s words, Hear­ken is a new approach to jour­nalism that puts the audience first.
“Traditionally, in news­rooms, the audience comes into play after all the impor­tant journalistic decisions have been made,” she said. “Hear­ken brings the audience into the editorial process at the very beginning, and has sup­porting technology to make it easy for reporters and editors to get audience input at key decision points.”
Hearken provides news­rooms a custom platform called the “Engagement Man­agement System (EMS).” The system helps newsrooms cre­ate a form where communi­ty members can ask questions for reporters to cover. This is the “curiosity module.” Audi­ence members can also vote on questions asked by others (and curated by the newsroom) with the “voting module.” Through the “question dis­play module,” newsrooms can showcase questions they’ve received, are investigating, or have answered. Here is an ex­ample of all three modules in action.
The audience can leave con­tact information to receive alerts if their question of inter­est is chosen. The community then feels invested in the story from the start, and is thus like­lier to read and share once it’s published, Brandel explained.
But how is the EMS different from Google Forms or a sim­ilar product?
“Our EMS is built specifi­cally with journalists in mind, with features to search and organize questions and turn them into stories,” Brandel said. A newsroom can cus­tomize the form to its brand and the form alerts audience if a question is answered or re­ceives a vote.
Moreover, forms can be di­rectly connected to analytical tools, like Google Analytics, and used to keep track of po­tential subscribers for news­letters and other communi­cations. And finally, the EMS acts as a centralized location for both the business and edi­torial teams to track progress.
The EMS itself is managed by the newsroom, which can choose which module to use. But the monthly subscription fee also includes access to Hearken’s engagement coach­ing team. Client newsrooms are connected to journalists around the world using Hear­ken’s model as part of a com­munity of best practices on au­dience engagement, and they receive quarterly progress re­ports on how they are doing and how to deepen engage­ment.
So far, Hearken has worked with more than 50 news­rooms in eight countries and the toolset has been translated into Dutch, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Portuguese, Rus­sian, Spanish and Swedish. Hearken translates the plat­form for whatever language a partner needs.
Their next project is the “Interactive Reporter’s Note­book,” a cross between a blog and a Twitter timeline.
“Sometimes, in a story, you are only able to put 10 percent of the information you found along the way because of word limits, story focus, etc. This is a way of activating that cutting-room floor material,” Brandel explained.
All these things add up to a platform that not only listens to audiences, but integrates them into the journalistic process in a way never before seen, Brandel said.
“The goal of Hearken is to improve the quality of engage­ment before a story is pub­lished,” Brandel said. “We see a world in which a journalist is a conduit for the commu­nity to ask questions to peo­ple in power. We re-envision a reporter from a walled-off ex­pert to a connector.”
Culled from Internation­al Journalist network ( ijnet)

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