Picture shows a diverse group of people riding a colorful rollercoaster with lots of curves and loops (credit: Matt Bowden).
Picture shows a diverse group of people riding a colorful rollercoaster with lots of curves and loops (credit: Matt Bowden).
Best Practice

The Digital Media Innovation Roller Coaster: 2012-2022

When our DW Innovation Blog launched in December 2012, digital innovation in news media was already in full swing – but we didn’t know and couldn’t have possibly imagined what was coming! We invite you to follow our colleague Birgit Gray as she takes a fast ride down memory lane, charting the emergence of news content approaches, formats, and products.

10 years ago

Following the Arab Spring events, we experienced social media’s impact on society and the news industry, resulting in active innovation by news providers. For example, a lot of journalists began with social news monitoring, using new types of analysis tools for networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Other social media related innovations were about direct user dialogue and the use of user generated content (UGC) in programming. Many news media companies began with what's standard practice today: strategic social media distribution, often targeting specific audiences on Facebook and Twitter. There was also a lot of experimenting with social news formats, including dedicated news services on Facebook. In parallel, we saw the mainstream emergence of mobile news applications – and many new mobile news formats. Another area of rapid development was data-driven journalism (DDJ), with a wealth of interactive explainer graphics and other new formats.

9 years ago

While social, mobile and data journalism continued to thrive and expand, other content areas were also subject to experimentation and development: The first interactive news games appeared, and there was much innovation related to web documentaries and multimedia storytelling formats. In addition, the first news-related augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) mobile apps appeared.

8 years ago

This was a period of what can only be described as intense innovation. First, there were lots of initiatives to make news content more illustrated and visual with animated videos, news cartoons, and location-related 3D-visualisations. Secondly, the traditional news video got a major overhaul: News organisations developed and tested 360-degree videos, drone videos, novel social video formats, social-media-based live-streaming, and other interactive video formats. We also saw the first personalised news offerings and curated news services. At the same time, more and more "breaking news" live blogs started to appear.

Mobile news services became even more diverse with all kinds of notifications, content for wearables (like the Apple Watch), and dedicated messaging app services. A new social platform also had a big impact: News media makers started developing offerings for Instagram.

7 years ago

After such a flurry of activity in a very short time, it's not surprising that people needed a break. The pace of development slowed down significantly, and there was a noticeable drop in news media innovations. Nevertheless, new formats and services were still coming. These included Instagram stories, mobile lock-screen offerings (check the news with just a glance at your phone), animated VR stories, and two-perspective news stories (aiming to reflect increasingly polarised opinions). Also, artificial intelligence (AI) services began to leave their mark with the emergence of chat-bot news services.

6 years ago

At this time, big political shifts in Western Countries (Brexit Referendum, US Presidential Election, etc.), impacted on the media industry and news journalism. As a result, the focus of news providers began to move away from cutting-edge digital innovation. Instead, more effort was devoted to solutions for core journalism, organisational transformation, and audience development. New fact-checking formats appeared across the board.

However, there were still significant innovations, like new types of AR experiences and dedicated news podcasts. AI technologies were used to create automated news homepages and audio news services for voice platforms. In addition, there was much continuous development in areas such as VR/360, social/short form video (including vertical video), and mobile news notifications.

5 years ago

Half a decade ago, AI had gained more momentum and drove innovation in fields such as advanced personalised news (feeds, newsletters etc.) or data-driven stories. Another big trend was transparency – which led to the rise of journalism explainers and news types of dialogue formats. The visual forensics video directly related to a news event or location was another innovation in news storytelling. In addition, news media providers continued to develop the field of AR, which led to AR objects in news stories, AR snapchat services, and AR data stories.

4 years ago

It now became apparent that much of what's technically possible had already been done – and that other news journalism topics were as important as digital content and service innovation. The community thus started focusing on diversity in news media, mitigating news fatigue/avoidance and improving the health and safety of journalists. Many also worked on improving content-related business models, developing the discipline of constructive journalism, and implementing new forms of organisational culture. More resources were also allocated to counteract increasingly sophisticated and harmful disinformation.

Regardless, there was further technical and digital content innovation, like experiments with decentralised, blockchain-based news services, and news offerings on the emerging social media platforms Tik-Tok and Twitch. Other developments included the use of satellites in data journalism, IoT/sensor journalism, furthering audio journalism (podcasts), and more complex interactive audio services for voice platforms.

3 years ago

The trend of the previous year continued: There was more focus on core journalism and "political" media issues, and less dynamic innovation in digital media formats and products.

Nevertheless, we saw several innovations, such as extended Instagram features and formats (AR face filters, video documentaries), new text message news services, and the use of photogrammetry for creating 3D models or visualising scenes.

In general, there was more development in the field of AI for news journalism. Examples include automated topical news feeds, automated sports coverage, automated interactive graphics, investigative stories enabled by complex AI-powered data analysis, read-aloud-functions for news articles using synthetic voices, and the first synthetic news presenter.

2 years ago

In this period, we saw the adoption/development of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by news media companies, with a focus on exclusive and collectible content (including larger collections) as well as NFT community building. The arrival of social audio platforms (first Clubhouse, then Twitter Spaces) led to the development of social audio discussion formats, including the re-use of these live events for podcasts and long-form audio forms. Another area of innovation was social media, with new “social-first” offerings for young audiences and Tik-Tok-related content innovation.

Because of the Corona pandemic, there was scaled innovation in the existing field of Data Driven Journalism (DDJ) and related storytelling approaches.

Last year – and now

During the past 12 months, the news media sector was faced with a set of unexpected challenges – many of them resulting from Russia's war on Ukraine and related geo-political and economic crises. It became important to explore new ways of covering the war, cater to the increased demand for content verification, and deal with a new wave of news and crisis fatigue on the audience side. In addition, there were business-related issues that shook the media technology sector, most notably the sale of Twitter to Elon Musk. For many news media providers, the exploration of alternative "micro blogging" platforms (such as Mastodon) is on the cards. All this may be an explanation for why there has been visibly less news innovation recently.

However, audio was one area where new formats and products continued to emerge. Examples for audio innovation are exclusive clips in news articles, short form briefings across multiple platforms, and more diverse approaches to spoken news articles (human narrators or synthetic voices). Furthermore, the first aggregated audio journalism services emerged. There was also further development on the Tik-Tok platform, such as the launch of topic-oriented news channels by news companies and offerings from individual news journalists.

With trends like Metaverses, Web3 and Generative AI advancing, we're curious to see what's next in news innovation. And, of course, we're still up for the roller coaster ride!

Birgit Gray