News-Prediction Games’ Challenge
The potential is great, but figuring out how to be taken seriously in newsrooms stifles news games’ progress
This report was researched and produced by University of Colorado Boulder Journalism & Mass Communication media studies master’s student Lucia Palmer.
By Lucia Palmer
In the changing environment of news media, experimentation with innovative media and platforms is essential. For this reason, the Digital News Test Kitchen at the University of Colorado Boulder has developed a research interest in the intersection of digital (online and mobile) games and journalism as a potential method of both engaging and attracting readers to a news organization.
Starting in the spring semester of 2011, the Digital News Test Kitchen partnered with CUIndependent.com, the university’s student-run news website, and Prediculous.com, a Boulder-based start-up that had developed an online predict-the-news game, in order to investigate the potential benefits of incorporating a news game into the content of a campus news provider. In the fall of 2011, we also collaborated with the Colorado Daily, a student-oriented commercial print newspaper and website, which experimented with using the Prediculous predict-the-news game.
This report explores the challenges of these experiments, and the potential of news games and prediction markets for all journalists, media providers, and news consumers as a whole.
Some of the main research findings and lessons that this report offers include:
- A (non-scientific) campus survey which reveals that a vast majority of students are finding their news online, but a small minority visit CUIndependent.com despite expressing interest in its news content. In addition, survey participants expressed an interest in playing news games through an online news site. This suggests a need in the CU Independent for re-envisioning its marketing approach, perhaps including exploration of innovative platforms such as news games to gain visibility and user engagement.
- Incorporating news games into the daily workflow of a news staff faces significant obstacles. Journalists and editors are often already loaded up with responsibilities in a busy newsroom, so tasks outside of their normal expectations may be burdensome and get neglected. In addition, journalists may view news games as frivolous pursuits or cheap marketing gimmicks, and/or dismiss accepting news games’ potential value because of perceived ethical concerns.
- If news games are to become successful elements of a news organization’s content, they must be fully embraced by the entire staff. Despite the difficulty in achieving that, experimenting with implementing a news game can be a worthwhile pursuit. If created with journalistic intent, news games have great potential for user engagement and increasing news literacy.
- Prediction markets represent interesting potential for predict-the-news games. Research has shown that event prediction markets (in which participants are asked to bet on a set of possible outcomes) tend to be extremely accurate under certain circumstances, and greatly surpass the outcomes of deliberation and polling. Our research partner Prediculous.com has the qualities necessary to create accurate news predictions, and thus far has experienced encouraging accuracy rates.
- A number of other prediction games are appearing online, which cover a variety of topics (sports, law, world events, etc.). This indicates an interest in prediction games across audiences and a possible latent use for the games as a journalistic tool.
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