Takeaways from #ONA17

Miguel Paz
6 min readOct 10, 2017
ONA17 logo.

The 2017 Online News Association Conference was the largest one to this date. With an attendance close to 3,000 people, the event held in Washington DC this past weekend was packed with more sessions you can attend to about Audience Engagement; Analytics Audio, Video, Photo; Business; Ethics Career Building; Developer Tools; Tech Mobile Tools and Design; Newsgathering Tools; Techniques Teaching and Training. Many sessions were recorded on video or audio, so be sure to check the sessions page and navigate to the one you are interested in.

In the meantime, here are links to things I attended and liked enough to share and save them for future references.


A slack-bot developed by Quartz and Documentcloud. It’s mission is to perform “tasks useful to reporters, editors, and news producers right where so many of us work all day — inside Slack”.

Quackbot is under continued development (meaning that the team will roll out new features informed by their research and newsrooms feedback).

So far it does the following:

-It can take a screenshot of any webpage.
-It will preserve any URL by telling the Internet Archive to save a copy of the page.
-Given a topic, it can suggest some reliable sources of data.
-If you provide Quackbot with a URL, it will identify any cringe-worthy clichés on that page.
-Soon, Quackbot will also allow journalists to upload PDFs to DocumentCloud, extract text and charts from PDFs, monitor websites for changes, make quick charts, and more. We’re also inviting other journalists to bring their tools into Quackbot, making them readily available within Slack. (Go here to contact the team)

FYI: To install Quackbot, your newsroom must have a Documentcloud account with administrative permission and have access to your Slack organization, also with administrative permission.

URL to download and install: https://www.documentcloud.org/quackbot


#dataviz4all is always part of the wish-list for small newsrooms with little access to coders. Flourish aims to serve them by allowing developers to create Javascript templates of data visualizations, that can be reused and customized by people who don´t know how to code. Flourish was developed by Kiln, a data visualization agency from the UK. Thanks to funding from Google News Lab, Flourish can be used for free by newsrooms. Check it out and read more about it.

Engagement, listening and working with your community

In this workshop, lead by Ashley Alvarado, Alex Laughlin, Julia Haslanger and Jennifer Brandel, attendants were treated to a great exercise: how to develop an engagement strategic plan for a news project.

The pitch:

Walk in with an idea, walk out with a written plan for achieving that goal (and an accountability buddy to help you stick to it).

With examples from the work of the workshop facilitators from Hearken (a company founded by Brandel that works with many newsrooms on audience engagement), attendants outlined “how to reach the people you want to reach”.

Download the worksop tip sheet. It will help you in your own community and news engagement projects: http://bit.ly/engagementstrategyworkshop

Media trends, surveys and databases

  • A look into the future with Amy Webb
    Amy´s 10th presentation in ONA came full of surprises and signals about Artificial Intelligence and so much more. After you see this, don´t shoot the messenger. On the contrary, thank Amy and prepare for the “longer-term future of news in the coming age of AI, automation and voice-based computing”. Alexa, tell me what´s going on?
    - Slides.
    - Annual Report of Tech Trends for Journalism and Media.
    - Results of Global Survey on Journalism´s Future
  • The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms
    A survey by the ICFJ with great insights about how well prepared (or not) newsrooms are for the digital age. Stats: 2,700 responses from journalists and newsroom managers in 130 countries. This from the executive summary:
    1. Technologists remain sparse in newsrooms.
    2. Managers are more skilled in digital media than their employees.
    3. Most newsrooms are not redefining roles for the digital era.
    4. Journalists use a limited range of digital skills.
    5. Digital-only and hybrid newsrooms are outpacing traditional newsrooms (do those exists anymore?).
    6. The leader in digital is Eurasia/former USSR (highest percentage of digital only).
    7. Legacy media remains dominant in South Asia (43%).
    8. Only 11% of journalists use social media verification tools (71% use social media to find new story ideas).
    9. More than half of journalists (54%) and newsrooms (52%) fail to secure their communications.
    10. A mere 21% in Eurasia/former USSR identify building trust as a major concern.
    11. Just 29% of North American newsrooms say trust is a pressing issue.
    12. The most important revenue generator, after advertising (70%), is sponsored content (44%).
    13. Digital-only organizations are twice as likely to generate revenue from alternative sources (donations, memberships, etc.) as traditional or hybrid newsrooms.
    14. Newsrooms in developing countries report greater urgency to create new revenue streams. 70% of newsrooms in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Middle East/North Africa identify this as a major challenge, compared with 44% of North American ones.
    15. Journalists (52%) want data journalism training, but only 40% of newsrooms offer it.
    There is much more. Check it out.
  • A comprehensive look at successful Membership Models in Newsrooms
    A project by professor Jay Rosen at NYU in partnership with De Correspondent, the “Membership Puzzle” takes a stab at a global question in media: How can quality journalism be funded? The project surveyed 100 newsrooms that have had engaged in creative successful ways to fund their work with and for their communities. Starting with the iconic case studies of De Correspondent and ElDiario.es, the database provides as many examples as you can think of about trust, engagement, community, distribution, business and sustainability models combined. You can check the database here. Or send your suggested newsroom´s case study.
    (On the nerd side, kuddos to them for using Airtable, a friendly mix of spreadsheet-meets-relational-database that makes it easy to navigate, filter and sort the data according to what you want to find out).
  • Mo´ better news
    Fresh from the oven. Better news is a comprehensive database of strategies and case studies to help transform newsrooms, across the board (product, audience, revenue, leadership, etc.). If you work in any leadership or management level or want to learn something new to improve your workflow or newsroom culture, save this. Developed by the American Press Institute and supported by the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative.
  • Key trends in social and digital media from Pew Research.
    Revealing data points about news consumption, platforms, credibility and community.

Teaching, training and tools

Last but not least: Watch the panel “When Satire Is the Most Effective Political Coverage”, follow Ayumi Fukuda Bennett in Twitter to see her amazing skechnotes of sessions and dive into the list of the 2017 Online Journalism Award Winners.



Miguel Paz

CEO Reveniu.com. Journalist. Professor. Previously @newmarkjschool, @niemanfdn, @bkcharvard fellow, @icfj fellow, @Poderopedia, ElMostrador.cl and more