Top 5 “Trending Topics” at ONA15

During the recent ONA conference, the coffee bar served almost 250 gallons of coffee – or about two cups per attendee!  But, there were more pressing issues than the journalism industry’s dependence on caffeine… Here are  the five  “trending topics” that  our  team heard about the most  at ONA15.

1) Ad-blocking is paving the way for native advertising. Traditional banner and pop-up ads can be a major annoyance to readers, who are increasingly turning to ad-blocking extensions to compensate. Because publishers still need revenue from advertising to create the content their readers are seeking, this dilemma has paved the way for the recent rise of native advertising.

Check out this video from ONA15 about the relationship between advertising and editorial.

2) Facebook has become a top distribution platform. In July, Facebook pulled ahead of Google as the top source of referral traffic for more than 400 digital publishers. Now, many ONA15 attendees are trying to figure out how Facebook and other platforms fit in with their content distribution strategies.

Facebook overtakes Google as top referrer to media sites, says @parsely study. #ona15data #ONA15

— Julia Thompson (@JuliaThompson) September 26, 2015

3) Publishers push for consolidation. Here’s just one list of tools and platforms available for digital publishers — overwhelming, right? Making the transition from print to digital can be both confusing and expensive, so many online media sites are on the lookout for a one-stop solution or tool that will make the process faster and easier. Yet, at the same time:

“Digital publishers are beginning to understand that the shift from print to digital isn’t just about tools,” said Katie Jane Martin, publisher development representative at “It’s about fundamentally changing the way that your newsroom works together in the digital landscape — it’s about that culture shift.”

4) Video is essential, yet still experimental. Online consumption of video news continues to rise, so publishers must work diligently to make sure that readers are enjoying a consistent experience across all platforms. At ONA15, many attendees talked at length about the effort they are putting into creating video content; however, there are few reliable analytics tools available to track these efforts.

5) Analytics culture still needs to reflect the value of storytelling. Many publishers feel pressure to meet arbitrary KPIs that aren’t truly indicative of their storytelling strengths. For example, they publish “flashy” headlines that don’t entirely reflect the nature of a story to garner more clicks. Attendees were talking about how to move away from valuing metrics — and towards using data to understand the audience — so storytelling can be improved.

“Analytics can help you evaluate how to thoroughly tell your story,” said Kelsey Arendt, customer success manager at “The feedback you get through data is  critical to understanding how  users engage with the whole  package, which includes non-text elements  like  videos, headlines, or tweets, and helps you find ways to  improve the distribution of future stories.”

Although many conference attendees initially felt like the topics above were unique to their newsrooms, hearing from their peers at ONA helped them to realize that newsrooms globally are struggling with similar challenges. Let this be a reminder to all of us to share our stories of working in journalism and digital media more often!

@parsely fundamentally the challenges and balancing act for online news are the same the world over

— Stephen Olsen (@Palavermedia) September 25, 2015

Do you think that the topics above are an accurate reflection of trends in the digital media industry right now? is collecting data for an end-of-year survey, and we’d love it if you could take two minutes to share your thoughts.

Take the Survey Now

By far, the best thing about ONA is seeing familiar faces year after year. The digital publishing industry tends to be pretty small; but, as ONA15 proved again this year, we are mighty. See you next year!