Key takeaways on news innovation from the inaugural WhipSmart conference

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What are the latest trends and innovative practices in digital newsrooms? Storybench went on the road this week to the inaugural WhipSmart, NewsWhip’s conference on social media, analytics and digital strategy, in New York City, to download ideas from the leading minds in the industry.

The evolving “science of content,” niche reporting, leveraging emotions, fake news and the “modern newsroom” were hot topics. Below, a few takeaways from the ground at WhipSmart.

“We are thinking about ephemeral sites”

Ashish Patel, senior vice-president of audience development and insights at Group Nine, NowThis’ parent company, said there is a “distributed media revolution” underway offering powerful opportunities for new media players. He made the case for verticalization—NowThis spun off sub-brands such as NowThis Politics, NowThis Weed, etc — in order to maximize views and reach niche audiences. He also proposed the creation of short-lived websites when relevant, something NowThis might explore in the future. “We are thinking about ephemeral sites that come out when an opportunity presents itself and drives a lot of traffic for a while. Ephemeral is very interesting,” he says.

Predicting where stories go

Paul Quigley, NewsWhip’s CEO and co-founder, highlighted the new possibilities analytics and data bring to the “art” of storytelling. The “science of content,” as he calls it, would inform the white space, create opportunities for journalist to predict where stories would go. “We never really had evidence before about why some stories work and others do not. Now, we can analyze social data and see the patterns. Successful stories are built on analytics,” he noted.

Geographic and demographic diversity

Liz Heron, a Huffington Post alum formerly with Facebook, called for a big shift in the way journalists conduct their work within communities. Advocating for more transparency and both geographic and demographic diversity in newsrooms, she asked for the industry to “become more comfortable with the role of being ‘a player.’” Heron, who is currently preparing a report on the future of video for the Knight Foundation, also noted that journalists are far too clustered in a few American cities.

Over the coming days, Storybench will be blogging in more detail about what lessons journalists should take from WhipSmart.

Felippe Rodrigues

Felippe is a former law student turned sports writer and a big fan of the Olympics. He is currently a graduate student in Northeastern’s Media Innovation program.

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