Hearken Means "Listen"


We help news organizations listen to the public as a story develops from pitch through publication.

Our unique model is called public-powered journalism.

Using Hearken’s consulting services and platform, our partners:

  • inspire meaningful audience engagement that builds trust

  • create differentiated, high-performing content

  • collect valuable data and insights

  • generate new revenue streams

Our custom platform for public-powered journalism includes our Engagement Management System (EMS) and Open Notebook.




We've flipped the traditional model on its head, enabling journalists to know before publishing that their work is relevant.

By listening to the public from story inception to completion, newsrooms can understand how to truly serve the needs of their audiences without resorting to guesswork, gut feel or flawed metrics. 

Hearken helps newsrooms harness the universal quality of curiosity: collecting the public's questions as to what they don't know that they'd like a reporter to cover. Newsrooms have the option of curating the best questions up for a public vote and working with the public while reporting.

This process ensures journalists spend their limited time and resources generating the most useful content possible.

An informed citizenry is the bedrock of democracy, and the purpose of journalism. So why not let the citizenry weigh in directly on what information they need? 


I cannot be more precise as this: Hearken has been a goldmine for stories and proved what I suspected: that newsrooms may be numb in terms of ideas that match their reader’s interest.
— Sebastián Auyanet, El Observador
I really like the Hearken process. Both because it surfaces great topics and because it helps us understand where we’re hitting the mark and where we’re not.
— Jordan Wirfs-Brock, Inside Energy
Hearken helps us create stories that are more relevant, effective and more shareable. Their public-powered model enables us to tell stories that ignite people and meets them where they are.
— Andi McDaniel, Senior Director of Content and News, WAMU
Engagement Consulting

Every Hearken subscription includes:


While it's tempting to believe a tool is the answer to better audience engagement, tech is just one part of the solution.

Lasting transformation comes from changing the way journalists conceptualize the audience. We help newsroom staff transition from viewing the public as consumers to partners. We provide personalized and targeted consulting from our ace team of journalists throughout the lifetime of a Hearken subscription. We help newsrooms launch new projects and series, as well as spread public-powered journalism as a strategy throughout the entire organization.  

My engagement consultant always offers me great editorial advice — thoughtful and detailed.
— Sonya Gee, Digital Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Everyone is super friendly, knowledgeable and committed to helping you find a solution.
— Juliet Fromholt, Host + Deputy Operations Director, WYSO



Once journalists are ready to think a little differently, our streamlined cloud-based platform comes into play. We've built a custom toolset for cultivating, managing and acting on the public's questions and insights. We call it the EMS. It's short for: Engagement Management System.

The EMS keeps newsrooms from losing valuable public input in endless Twitter feeds and tucked-away corners of Facebook. It centralizes data and collects audience emails, allowing you to directly translate participation to user acquisition. 

The Hearken platform offers a variety of interaction points between the public and newsroom, ensuring that all editorial decisions can be made with the most complete information possible at the right time: when decisions are being made.

The Hearken platform offers a variety of interaction points between the public and newsroom, ensuring that all editorial decisions can be made with the most complete information possible at the right time: when decisions are being made.

The Engagement Management System centralizes all engagement for ease of action and collaboration within the newsroom. 

The Engagement Management System centralizes all engagement for ease of action and collaboration within the newsroom. 

The Hearken platform is a very useful tool. It enables us to work together on one story with people from our website, radio station, tv station and newspaper because all of the input from our audience is collected in one place. Plus, the modules can be personalized to a great extent to give them a BRUZZ vibe.
— Elfi Thoelen, Content Manager + Webmaster, BRUZZ
Hearken has allowed us to engage with our audience on a deeper level, making them feel involved in the reporting process in way that makes sense for all of us. The Hearken platform keeps the entire process organized, running smoothly and looking good - which for a small shop is HUGE.
— Juliet Fromholt, Host + Deputy Operations Director, WYSO
KCRW Sample Module
In this business, I think it’s hard to avoid a sense of separateness from our audience. Even in this social media age, so much of our communication goes one direction. This is a refreshing multi-directional engagement platform that makes us better in lots of ways.
— Mack Linebaugh, Director of Digital Services, Nashville Public Radio

Open Notebook is the latest addition to the Hearken platform. Learn more about it here.  

Progress Reports



Custom progress reports provide specific, actionable recommendations to maximize engagement, lead generation and user acquisition via Hearken's public-powered process and platform. 





Hundreds of journalists around the world using Hearken connect through an online community. Here they share experiments, successful editorial and events strategies, and support one another in shifting the cultures of their newsrooms toward a public focus. 



Public-Powered Stories

Our partners report original stories that start from questions posed by the public. 


Newsrooms use Hearken to generate public questions and stories on every topic conceivable: from timely and topic-based to geographically-focused, evergreen inquiries. Public-powered journalism can be applied to all manner of reporting styles and product types (TV, radio, podcast, newspaper, Snap, etc.) 


Turns out the public has award-winning questions! Our partners have been nominated for an Emmy and received numerous honors, including regional Edward R. Murrow awards (many for innovation and investigative journalism), Associated Press awards, and awards from local press associations.  


Our partners are finding Hearken is powering their top stories of all time, shattering records for visits, page views, social shares and increasing time on site.  

Read Rockman et. al's research findings on KQED's Bay Curious. 

Read Rockman et. al's research findings on KQED's Bay Curious. 

Hearken powered:

  • The top 3 stories in 2016 on WAMU.org 
  • WUWM's top-performing story of all time to date
  • KRCC's top-performing story of all time to date
  • Top-performing local stories on NPR One


Hearken helps newsrooms connect editorial goals to bottom-line business objectives. 

Read the results of Bitch Media's Hearken case study. 

Read the results of Bitch Media's Hearken case study. 

Kenosha News Paywall

Value-add for paying subscribers

Partners with paywalls or log-in systems use Hearken to acquire new users by incentivizing participation and resulting content before or after logging-in. 

Hearken can also connect to a newsroom's CRM system (Customer Relationship Management), sending emails directly to subscriber lists for increasing newsletter subscribership and membership. 

Charlottesville Tomorrow Ads

VALUABLE ad placement on platform

Our partners at Charlottesville Tomorrow commanded 6x their standard ad rates for ads that appeared on their Hearken modules. Why? Because these ads are seen where the public is engaging, and modules are embedded throughout the site, giving adverstisers more exposure.  




press & praise for hearkeN



"While news organizations are continually looking for better ways to interact with their audiences ... the opportunity for readers or listeners to speak to journalists before they publish a story is rare. Hearken is particularly useful for small news organizations without the internal resources to develop social engagement."

Washington Post.jpg


"As a hater of the comments section and a lover of more audience-focused journalism -- there's nothing more corrosive to journalism's future than reporters writing for other reporters -- I found Brandel's (Hearken's CEO) argument fascinating and convincing. 

Also, journalism at its root is about finding answers -- or trying to find out answers -- to questions average people are wondering about. Why not, you know, try to develop a process by which you can actually solicit the ideas of your audience about what it would like to know more about?" 



"People trust information that truly includes them ... Brandel (Hearken's CEO) goes so far as to call what Hearken does “public-powered journalism” — I don’t think information gathering can be more inclusive than that." 

Journalism industry leaders are weighing in on Hearken, too. 


OUR WRITINGs: Thoughts + theory on engagement

Our writings on audience engagement and the evolution of journalism provide new perspectives on an industry in flux and are being added to j-school syllabi around the world. Check out our Medium publication for industry insights, meet our partners, and read case studies of what our newsrooms are learning and achieving.

Here are a few of our "greatest hits":