Is it still possible to make a career as a full-time journalist?
It's up for debate, even within journalism schools. And as readers of regional newspapers dwindle and local news broadcasts lose viewers at an alarming rate, many job seekers are wondering: What are the best career options for today's journalism grads?
Though technology may be blamed for many of the news industry's problems, it can also be the missing piece to finding a job in the "new" newsroom; online magazines and digital publishers need talented people to develop, distribute, and manage content. In fact, Pew Research discovered a hiring boom at digital native news sources like Buzzfeed, Gawker, Mashable, and Huffington Post.
"The accelerating shift of talent to digital news jobs has significant implications for the U.S. news consumer. Many digital outlets are working to fill reporting gaps created by the strain on resources at traditional outlets--from niche topic areas like education to international coverage to local community news to investigative journalism."
Often, the new jobs available in newsrooms do not fit the typical role of "beat reporter" or "copy editor." So how can a budding journalist find her place? These roles may go by different names at different companies, but many new jobs include core duties involve web analytics and audience engagement.
Here's the scoop on what to look for to find some of the top new jobs in digital journalism.
As Julia Haslanger reports, "In the past year, more and more news organizations are giving someone with the very specific duty of increasing...the number of readers." These growth editors are focused on boosting traffic, often defined as the number of people visiting a site, and engagement, which can vary from outlet to outlet but includes the amount of time those people spend on each story and the site as a whole.
Though the old-school journalists might shudder at the thought of responding so directly to these prerogatives, a growth editor is still an editor at heart -- just one that has to more closely consider the audience. That means selecting the right content at the right time for the right people, and helping shape an editorial strategy that does this in the future.
Haslanger interviewed a number of people in this role at different digital publications, and she discovered that, "when there's an obstacle to growth, it's most often an editorial obstacle, such as a story not being framed or headlined in a way that will resonate with the audience." Some growth editors create different headlines, or even shift the focus of various pieces, to have the maximum impact on the specific audience they're trying to reach.
Audience Development Manager
Unlike a growth editor, whose primary goal is to boost relevant traffic, the audience development manager's goal is to connect the editorial team to its loyal readers.
Alex MacCallum was the first audience development manager for the New York Times, and according to her, "it isn't just about chasing clicks." MacCallum and her team are active participants in social media, both monitoring trending stories and publishing the paper's content on various platforms. When they find a hot topic on Reddit, for example, they alert the journalists to start digging for a story. Then they share that story on Facebook, driving traffic to paper's website, where visitors can read up to 20 articles per month for free.
Audience development managers tend to work at an intersection of analytics and editorial: they must combine metrics -- like how many unique visitors the site receives and how long they spend on the site -- with demographics, like who these visitors are and where they come from. Then they must translate this information back into plans and strategies that encourage audiences to take specific actions.
Platform Wrangler/Distributed Content Editor
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social media platforms are increasingly the medium of choice for communicating with our friends and family, but a growing number of people are also getting their news straight from these third-party platforms.
"It's not lost on publishers that they need a strong voice representing their interests at a time when platforms are increasingly the way that audiences find their content and setting the rules for publishers to distribute and monetize their articles and videos," writes Lucia Moses for Digiday.
Content now lives well beyond publishers' sites. As a result, newsrooms need platform wranglers to manage their relationships with third-party platforms -- and to negotiate with them on the most effective ways to distribute the content.
Platform wranglers may also work closely with social media editors and be responsible for pushing specific content to specific platforms. For example, the role may share photo-heavy cooking articles to Pinterest, which is a visual-oriented site. Headlines must be optimized for Twitter, and content needs to be enticingly shareable on Facebook.
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All of these roles blend traditional editorial duties with online marketing and social media strategies. If you're interested in a career with a digital news source, then mastering skills like analytics and and keeping up with the latest in social media is essential to scoring your dream job.
Crusty, old newspaper men might shirk at these new roles, but for journalism to continue to thrive, we'll need our best and brightest applying the concepts of journalism to these new opportunities.