Journalism as a business has been struggling for a full generation; making money while informing the public of what it needs to know has become increasingly difficult. While most would say the industry has failed to adapt sufficiently to modern technology and changes in the way people communicate, a new movement appears to be catching on: Adaptive Journalism.
Adaptive journalism is a phrase coined by Washington Post senior editor, Cory Haik, who explains the concept on her Tumblr as “the ultimate in delivering, to the greatest of our technical and journalistic abilities, the best storytelling for the user at that moment, given how much we can presuppose about their time/space continuum, as it were.”
In other words, it’s a version of journalism that takes a variety of factors into account, including the environment a person is in, the time of day, the device he/she is using, and even the platform, in order to create customized content for that person. It’s a type of journalism that embraces, not shies away from, modern technology and social platforms. One that helps shape the new way we consume media.
So what does adaptive journalism look like?
Haik provides an excellent example using the Presidential inauguration. If you’re watching the event on TV and pull up a news organization’s site on your phone, they should assume you’ll be watching it and provide you with live blog updates and social commentary from the public. Or if you were to visit their site on your desktop, they should provide you with live-stream video coverage since you’re clearly not in front of the television.
For years, newsrooms have struggled to maintain relevance in a world dominated by a 24/7-hour news cycle, thanks largely to social platforms like Twitter and the ease of sharing news instantaneously. But this is a big opportunity for journalism, and it’s already happening, according to Haik. She recently shared an example of The Washington Post who executed an adaptive journalism strategy during the government shutdown. And it was a big success.
But it’s not only journalists who can embrace this opportunity; a writer from Digiday has already tweaked the term by dubbing it Adaptive Storytelling. And we’ve already seen a small glimpse of this with television shows that encourage second-screen interaction. Interactive television programming allows us to watch a show, tweet with cast members, access behind the scenes clips, cast interviews, deleted scenes, etc. Here we see marketing working to meet us where we are— on our couch, in our jammies on a Sunday night.
Modern technology and social media have forever altered the way in which we transmit and consume information. And we’re all scrambling, wondering why we can’t figure out how to adjust.
But here’s a piece of perspective: The earliest humans had thousands of years to evolve and develop an organized communication system. Considering it’s only been nine years since Facebook launched and shifted our universe, we’re not as bad off as we tend to believe. We just have to be open to change and meet consumers where they are.