How can we attract a broader digital audience to news?

What is your journalism challenge? What problem are you working to solve?

My broad challenge is to find new ways to grow the Washington Post’s digital audience and expand our coverage.

Right now I am working on two tracks. One mission is exploring the development of a freelancer network — using technology and social media to rethink how we assign freelance journalists, in the mold of the “talent sharing economy.”

The second mission is to discover new ways to draw women into so-called “hard news” coverage. To date, the audience for that news — politics, national security, etc. — has been disproportionately male. But women vote in larger proportions than men do, and are socially engaged. How do we provide relevant hard news coverage that better appeals to women?

How would solving this problem help journalism?

Journalism is at a crossroads — trying to expand its audience without rebuilding the giant newsrooms of the past. My aim is to help figure out both how to best deploy talent, in ways that could be applicable in all sorts of newsrooms, as well as to approach storytelling in a more creative fashion in order to draw in new kinds of readers.

Who is tackling a similar problem and how is your approach different?

Storyhunter, Mechanical Turk, Elance, Odesk, Uber — all have tackled the challenge of bringing employers together with employees through a digital platform. And certain outlets have targeted new kinds of readers for news — the Skimm, and Policy Mic, for example. My hope is to apply the lessons of the sharing economy to a strictly journalistic environment, and to incorporate some lessons from new digital ventures to our more traditional newsroom.

What are the first questions you plan to pursue?

  • What news stories do women share most on Facebook/Twitter and what does that tell us about future behavior?
  • What kinds of news storytelling can we try to attract a wider female audience online?
  • How is the talent sharing economy applicable to journalism?

What are the first steps you plan to take in working on your challenge?

  • Gathering reader data from the Post and elsewhere; talking to experts and social media companies about what they know or see regarding female audience patterns.
  • Meeting with leaders in Silicon Valley about potential models for the talent sharing economy, as well as reader behavior.

Anne Kornblut’s bio. Have suggestions or questions about this challenge? Email anne8@stanford.edu.