Interactive Journalism

People hangout together at coffee shop

New opportunities for an ancient product?

Once upon a time, there were so-called newspapers that were considered as the fourth center of power in a state. Today people wonder how newspaper publishers are going to survive the next ten years. How could this have happened?

For years publishers were blind for any kind of digital possibilities not to mention proper payment models for their product. And though almost every newspapers today is represented in the internet with a website or a blog, they only use the peak of the iceberg of what today’s web 2.0 can provide on opportunities.

Interactive journalism could be a further step in the digital age only a few innovational newspapers already toke. And even for them it is still an exception, an experiment. In the following we try an approach how newspapers could really use the internet in a contemporary way. We’re introducing: Interactive Journalism.

First the basics: Interactive journalism is by definition a new type of journalism that allows consumers to direct contribute to the story though web 2.0 technologies.

The constant rising global presence of the internet created this form of journalism that allows not only to give feedback, but a dialog between reporter and user.  The classical roles are defined new so that the typical flow of information isn’t anymore “one to many” but “many to many”.

But examples of interactive journalism are not only comments debates under journalistic texts on newspaper websites or journalistic blogs who are written by people that hadn’t had a classic journalistic education.

For us it means that the journalistic article itself is written in a way that the reader can influence it for example through choosing on the most interesting parts for him or customizing on the readers previous knowledge. A typical interactive article further has multimedial elements such as videos, animations, sounds or mini-games. Overall this increase not only the entertainment factor of the product, it produces a better understanding of the fact through visualisation and leads to a better memorisation of the content.

In conclusion:

Interactive journalism is:

  • visualization
  • multimedia
  • gamification
  • and can be customized by the reader

The Use Case

An interactive product for the Stuttgarter Zeitung

The Stuttgarter Zeitung is a perfect example for a classical newspaper in present times. Since the year 1998 it’s paid circulation sunk about 24,1%. Nearly two thirds of the reader are over 60 years old. In other words: The Stuttgarter Zeitung is caught in a spiral that goes downwards. 

What it needs is new digital offensive action that introduces new, younger readers to the their products. Why not starting with the kids?

This leads us to another problem that our future product approaches and that we can link to the other: the reading skills of pupils on elementary schools are getting worse every year. Today every fifth kid that finishes the fourth class can’t read and understand even basic texts.

To solve both problems we suggest the Stuttgarter Zeitung doing an interactive platform for kids with fun but also pedagogic content for children in the age of 10 to 15. The regularly updated content is a mixture of political, economical and cultural news, added to all other educational content kids have fun to learn about. This is adapting to young people’s minds not only through an easier language as the monthly printed children newspaper of the STZ but through an interesting and exciting form of presentation. With the product the children can improve their reading skills, as well as their school grades without needing a teacher or a parent around them. Parents as well as their sons and daughters would be happy to find a quite, useful and entertaining activity for the children.

Let’s simulate an example: Imaging it’s december, the platform is already existing and the reporters decided to invest their time creating a new category about Christmas. At the beginning there will be a short online-test for knowledgement and interests of the users. Based on this information the children get different interactive content. This could be for example interactive maps that show how people in different parts of the world are celebrating christmas. The reporters can research recipes that are suitable for kids and show how to copy them in a short video. The young users can create and send wish lists for Santa Clause or insert photos of their own face in christmas photo frames. They can play a game in which they get to know the christmas story by reenacting it from the point of view of a shepherd. And they get recommendations for books and films to learn more about the topics. After learning all this, the children can make quizzes to test their knowledgement. In addition there is a digital treasure hunt which encourage the users to deal more with the content: They have to follow tasks through the articles, games, videos etc. and solve riddles to get points and win a fantastic children’s party at the publishing house.

For the parents there are no additional costs for this platform as long as they are subscribers to the Stuttgarter Zeitung or the Stuttgarter Kinderzeitung. If they aren’t already they are able to purchase a kids-subscription. This improves the loyalty of customers, as they are getting a further product for the same money and maybe even encourage some families to subscribe to it for the sake of the whole family. Of course there also has to be a discount for deprived families to support them.

The expenses are partly financed through the kids-subscription. And as there is already a kids editing existing at the publishing house, it doesn’t need a lot of further journalistic ressources.

Nonetheless the publisher should have no illusions that this product will be profitable. The publishing house will need employees (reports as well as engineers) that have special digital know-how for example in filming videos or making animations. And if the platform is a flop it could have negative influence on the image of the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

But besides risks and expanses, one thing should be clear: It could be an very important and successful investing in future customers, the future of the publishing house. With the interactive platform children get introduced to the medium newspaper in a playful way. They learn to recognize and appreciate journalistic quality which strengthen their willingness to pay for it. Moreover the product produces a very positive image of the publisher for kids and their families and young people develop a brand loyalty to the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

A text by Saskia Heller, Rosalie Schneegaß, Paula Wächter and Isabell Wieland