Hi there,

Penny for your thoughts?

Let's begin this newsletter with a question for you, the recipient: what concerns you? What occupies your thoughts? What would you like to read more about in this newsletter?

We’ll make you a promise: every serious question or contribution we receive will get a personal response. (as you can't respond here, go to our contact page and use the subject 'newsletter')

We've just surpassed 3,000 newsletter subscribers, so we might be setting ourselves up for a lot of work, but we always advocate for listening to your audience, so we’re going to put the money where our mouth is and follow our own advice.

So here’s something we’ve been thinking a lot about…

As most of our newsletter readers know, we’ve spent the past year talking a lot about user needs. Media professionals from all over the world are seeking our assistance, and we are happy to provide it through our tool and our comprehensive e-learning programme. The fact that we're about to start the second edition of User Needs Labs together with FT Strategies shows that the demand is there - and that it’s growing.

Through this process what we’ve noticed is that the biggest challenge to this is the culture change that’s required of editorial teams. When we work with newsrooms, this is the point that’s hardest: to be more effective, change has to come from the newsrooms themselves. 

We often notice that editors are concerned about losing independence when a software company comes to tell them they need to focus more on data analysis or strategic models.

So, in this context, a webinar by INMA on culture change in the newsroom yesterday was super interesting. Journalist Louise Story (formerly of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) turned this challenge on its head:

"Tools can empower journalists to do more things for themselves. If they understand what kind of information their audience is looking for through data analysis, they are less dependent on a top-down culture where an editor dictates what they should do differently, [based on their gut]."

According to Story (nominative determinism at its best?!), it's also important to become audience-focused, so that journalists are less tied to the product they already know.

"You should see news as a service, not as a product."


We’ve been making a concerted effort, particularly through client cases and webinars, to let people from the field speak for themselves. We are delighted that this year we will be introducing guest blogs.

Sophie Oostvoorn is the editor-in-chief of C.Tru, a project by Belgian publisher, Mediahuis. This project takes a deep dive into the significant misalignment between in-depth journalism with analysis, and so-called social natives.

You may not have heard this term before. Essentially, it refers to young people who have grown up with social media. They value news in a more individualistic manner: while ease of use is important, what matters most is that it caters to personal interests. This doesn't mean that news always has to be entertaining, but rather that valuable journalism should be informative and inspiring.

Ultimately, Sophie's message also comes back to Louise Story’s message, namely that for journalists, what the product looks like isn't as important as providing the service of good journalism.


Last week, we announced to the subscribers of our product newsletter that smartocto.ai is ready to launch - and we wouldn't want you to miss out. 

So sound the klaxon: it’s here. All those interested can sign up for a demo and will be shown the working product.

To summarise its capabilities, the toolkit driven by artificial intelligence consists of the following capabilities:

  • advanced headline testing
  • automatic content classification (including user needs)
  • smart story rewriting
  • timing optimisation

But we’d prefer to show, not tell. So here’s our CEO, Erik van Heeswijk walking you through smartocto.ai:


  • Increasingly, media outlets are recognising that the metric of pageviews is subordinate to engagement. For example, The Guardian has decided to move away from the 'most viewed' list and will now present a list titled 'Deeply read'.
  • Something we also frequently mention and write about is constructive journalism. This is highlighted again in an interesting report by INMA: constructive journalism helps to increase the engagement of new audiences.
  • The trend of social media increasingly turning away from the news cycle is another subject to rack up the column inches - metaphorical or otherwise. Reading this article at CNBC, it appears that in this election year, Meta is further tightening the tap after years of controversies related to misinformation and other content-moderation issues.
  • Five of the 45 finalists in this year’s Pulitzer Prizes for journalism disclosed the use of AI in the process of researching, reporting, or telling their submissions, according to Pulitzer Prize administrator Marjorie Miller on Niemanlab. Indeed, an interesting novelty.


So, as we sign off, we’d like to reiterate that we’d really like you to let us know what's on your mind, or how we can help you with what we do. Your time is precious, so we want to make sure that these newsletters are full of answers to questions you’ve been pondering. Reply to this with any thoughts or ideas - and we promise we’ll respond!

Have a great day!

Team smartocto