Nieman Journalism Lab

The pace of change in journalism guaranteed another busy year for the Nieman Journalism Lab. Through original reporting, research and commentary, the Lab has continued on its mission to help journalists, technologists and entrepreneurs figure out a path forward for the news in a digital age. We write about innovations in traditional media, digital media, tech companies, social networks and everywhere else that the creation, distribution, discovery and consumption of news is changing.

Nieman Lab continues to publish one of the most popular websites about journalism. In November 2012, only four years after our launch, we served up our 8,000,000th page to readers. Since the Lab's start, we've written over 3,200 posts; most weeks, we publish 12 to 15 original reported pieces. For those unfamiliar with our work, here's a sample of some of what we published during one unexceptional week, chosen at random, in late June:
  • A look at three new online startups covering politics in Mexico and the challenge they've posed to the often-corrupt traditional media there (published in both Spanish and English)
  • A look at the backend server work SCOTUS Blog did to deal with the traffic spike on health-care decision day
  • An interview with podcasting pioneer Dave Winer about the evolution of the format
  • A look back at the transferable lessons learned by The New York Times in its hyperlocal experiment
  • An essay by Jonathan Stray putting conceptions of journalistic bias in a social-science framework
  • A Ken Doctor column laying out the promise and challenges of News Corp.'s split into two companies
  • A piece on Scoople, a new social news game/aggregator that is trying to gather data on news consumption
  • A profile of a Netherlands-based effort to build an international news game
  • A Clay Shirky essay on Gawker's new commenting system
  • A piece on's efforts to build an Internet radio station
This is a good approximation of our mix: some daily news, presented with perspective; a pinch of academia; a focus on modern multi-platformed news diets; and an approach benefiting from international views.

In addition to the day-to-day coverage of the beat, we've also published a number of larger packages in 2012. In the fall, we ran a 15-piece collection of essays on new visions for journalism education in a digital age, including pieces by professors, deans, students, hiring editors, coders, and more. A three-part series tackled lessons American news companies could learn from the digital revenue strategies of a set of European publishers, large and small. This summer, we published a collection of stories on journalism innovation in Latin American media, from startups to established players, including several stories translated into Spanish. And our annual year-end predictions package has rapidly become a tradition in future-of-news circles.

In 2012, we shipped our first ebooks, pushed a major update to our lauded Twitter aggregation tool Fuego, held numerous events for the Boston journalism innovation community, and reported on a number of conferences. We continued to update Encyclo, our database of news innovators, adding or updating information more than 700 times.

We continue to be pleased by the growth in our audience and in our position in the journalism ecosystem. Our Twitter feed, @niemanlab, now has over 107,000 followers, making it larger than the Twitter presences of all but a handful of American newspapers. The Lab has over 13,000 Facebook fans, 13,000 RSS subscribers, 9,000 subscribers to our daily and weekly emails — all up substantially over a year ago. Our iPhone app has been downloaded over 12,000 times, been launched 96,000 times, and been used for a total of over 2,900 hours. Our work is put in front of tens of thousands of people every day.

One small but noteworthy surprise came in November, when the great sociologist Herbert Gans approached us to publish a piece of his promoting a new kind of citizen media. It would have been hard to expect such a request, out of the blue, by one of the world's most renowned sociologists when we started Nieman Lab four years ago.

But our impact goes beyond raw audience numbers. We hear from our audience all the time, and they tell us we're a must-read. We feel that, for a field in as much flux and experiencing as much growth as journalism today, it's important to have a common hub where the community of innovators can talk amongst themselves. We believe — and our readers tell us — that we're that place.

We have big ideas in mind for 2013, and I hope to report back to you in a year with more tales of new projects, bigger audiences, and high-quality work.

Joshua Benton
Director, Nieman Journalism Lab
2008 Nieman Fellow