Where does innovation happen in a newsroom? Experiments with new technologies are being undertaken by reporters and editors at both legacy media organizations and news start-ups. Some of these companies have even developed incubator-like spaces to foster explorations and applications of bots, 360 video, push notifications, and other fun digital ways to adapt journalism to the web. Here are seven of the most innovative newsrooms as of late, along with their most exciting technological initiatives that are changing the way we consume the news:
1. Quartz: Bot Studio
In 2016, Quartz launched a bot studio meant to “experiment with applications of bots, AI, and related technologies for journalism on new platforms.” Funded by the Knight Foundation, the studio’s work has been persistently shared with the public. Employees hold cool titles like “Bot Studio Writer” or “Bot Studio Editor.” The Quartz News app was one of the bots created in the studio, and is now available on iTunes. App users can get their news by having short text conversations with the bot, which delivers information using messages, photos, GIFs, and links.
2. Reuters: Thomson Reuters Labs
Multimedia news agency Thomson Reuters hosts R&D-style labs in various locations around the world that are tasked with finding innovative solutions for Reuters customers. While data science is a key focus, Lab staff make use of rapid prototyping and design thinking in the fields of big data, statistics, machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, data visualization, and quantitative finance.
Reuters has also made use of automation through the creation of News Tracer, a bot that is capable of finding breaking news on Twitter. Recently, Reuters announced the launch of Reuters Connect, “a content marketplace featuring all of Reuters multimedia content, as well as a diverse array of content from other leading media organizations around the world.” Reuters Connect’s “dream team of editorial content providers” includes Wibbitz as a partner and aims to deliver access to a range of multimedia content in various forms.
3. Associated Press: AP Insights
The AP Insights team is considered a thought leader in terms of journalistic innovation and especially for their work experimenting with AI technologies in the production of journalism – namely, their collaboration with Automated Insights to generate earnings reports using natural language processing and automation. Their Insights blog provides predictions and trends around the ways that technology will impact journalism, along with updates on AP projects and technological innovations. Most recently, AP Insights published a report detailing ways AI can fit into a newsroom. Check out the report, How AI Will Impact Journalism, by Francesco Marconi and Alex Siegman.
4. Vox: Storytelling Design Studio
The Vox Media Storytelling Studio consists of a team of designers, journalists, and engineers who are “tasked with finding the most important stories and telling them in the best ways” and who collaborate with editorial staff to find these best ways. A news story serves as a “starting point and driver” for what is built and designed, shaping format and function along the way. Some of the coolest projects to come out of the Vox studio include an annotated version of Trump’s inaugural speech, a Final Fantasy-inspired trivia game for Polygon, their gaming vertical, and Circuit Breaker, a Facebook bot that resurfaces content from Vox Media’s tech vertical, The Verge.
5. Buzzfeed: Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts
Launched in 2015 in partnership with GE and Eyebeam, the BuzzFeed Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts operates as both a lab and a fellowship. The Open Lab was launched to find new ways to work with images, annotate audio for virtual reality content, track surveillance, and tell stories both to and from today’s news audience. Unfortunately, as Poynter noted, the Open Lab will be closing in October.
6. The Guardian: Mobile Innovation Lab
The Mobile Lab is an innovation team within the Guardian newsroom that was built to explore and deliver news storytelling on smaller screens. Recognizing that many readers favor smart and smaller devices over the desktop, many of their projects are related to the push notification feature. The Mobile Lab’s projects of note include live video embedded into push notifications, a podcast player for mobile web browsers, and a “read and watch” live video feature.
7. The Economist: Media Lab
The Economist Media Lab is an incubator within the company tasked with exploring new technologies and business models for digital media. The Lab uses design, storytelling, and agile thinking to experiment and prototype new digital products and services. One of the most exciting projects to come out of the lab is RecoVR, the Economist’s first virtual reality experience, which reconstructs the Mosul Museum in Iraq.
More and more news companies are experimenting with having an in-house lab where they might conduct experiments with new methods of storytelling. Other roleplayers to watch include Nieman Lab, the Associated Press’s Strategy team, and NYC Media Lab. To learn more trends within the journalism field and keep up with who is doing what, check out the following resources: