Amy Webb’s Top Ten Tech Trends for Journalists

The coming digital journalist will mean refined ways of researching stories, knowing who is where at news events, easier source identification through face-recognition software and digital note-taking.

Oh and by the way? That digital journalist is now here.

Amy Webb, a technology guru whom I revere, offered up her annual 10 tech trends for journalists at the Online News Association conference in Boston in September 2011. The trends come from the work she does through her company, Webbmedia Group, which is basically a digital-strategy consultant business that tracks techy trends through research, interviews, networking, focus groups and observations.

The top trends to be aware of in journalism, according to Amy Webb, are the following:

  • Refined Search: New kinds of search engines can help you target your research findings much more precisely than just Google or Yahoo. Take advantage of the “smart” functions of features like “Google +1” that help the engine know your preferences. See: Google +1, Google Related, Heliod, Greplin’s app.
  • Topics: New software is arriving that allows us to conduct topic-focused dynamic curation. This all goes WAY beyond aggregation. See: Twylah, Klout, Scoop.it, Google Propeller. (Some of these are still in private beta, but they are coming, says Amy!!)
  • Inner Circles: Features like Google Circles are allowing you to curate conversation around specific topics and groups of people. So for journalists, consider exploring these new programs to conduct focus groups, organize key influencers and keep up to date on product launches and other industry-specific news.
  • Social-Proximity Networks: These show you who else is around you when you are at a conference, in a meeting, or just out and about. Besides Foursquare, there is also:  Nerd Nearby (and a bunch of others but I can’t seem to verify on the web, so I’m going to have to get back to them later when I make sure I’ve written them down correctly).
  • Face and Iris Recognition: Face.com and Facebook are helping us identify and tag people in images. Creepy, right?! But imagine as a reporter taking a picture of someone on your phone and finding out who they are in a few seconds. Great for those of us who can’t remember people’s names for the life of us. See: Viewdyl. A bunch of others are coming too.
  • Digital Note-Taking: The Livescribe, ABBYY, and Wacom Inkling mean you can take notes (and comment on your notes) digitally by hand.
  • Quick and Long Reads: Consider marketing that long piece to byliner or longreads, which show the reader how many minutes it would take to read the entire thing. And for that shorter stuff, check out Amazon Kindle Singles and Apple short-reads content.
  • Gestural Interfaces: This technology will enable people to interact with a digital device without touching it. (I had to wikipedia it while she was talking.) Not a lot out right now, but she says to look out for: Kinect, Android@Home, and stuff from Apple, MSFT, and Primesense 3D.
  • Pre-cognition reporting: Data visualization tools that can predict where trends are heading (in other words, to see the future!).  Check out the Terminator Vision app and Recorded Future.
  • Ethics in Digital Journalism: Amy ended with a caution about digital technologies taking over the world, and more importantly, our souls (my words, not hers). She reminded us that just because you CAN use digital tools to do just about anything, doesn’t mean you SHOULD (again, my words, not hers but this was the basic takeaway).

(*** ALL OF THIS COMES FROM WEBB’S PRESENTATION!!)

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