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Check out our One Sheet.

Overview

+ What is Hearken?

Hearken is an audience-driven tech platform and editorial framework that enables journalists to partner with the public throughout the reporting process, resulting in content that’s original, relevant and popular.

+ What does Hearken do?

Our tools enable an audience to submit questions or vote on questions they would like journalists to investigate and report. Hearken essentially invites audiences into the story production process at the very beginning of a story rather than at the very end (in the comments section). Using our framework and supporting technology leads to deep audience engagement, original and consistently high-performing content and helps newsrooms collect data and new leads for membership and subscriptions.

+ How can journalists and newsrooms use Hearken?

Newsrooms can use Hearken’s flexible toolset in various contexts and however they see fit. The following are some of the most popular ways we’ve seen journalists employ Hearken’s curiosity module: a tool for identifying information gaps and harnessing the curiosity and great ideas of the audience into stories.

  • To power a general assignment series based on a subject or location: E.g., “What questions do you have about Houston, its people, or the region?”

  • To inspire coverage for a targeted series: E.g., “What do you want to know about the education system in Boston?”

  • To shape a daily column, segment or feed: E.g., “What would you like to ask our guest Cara Walker about her sculptures and artistic practice?”

  • To collect great ideas for ongoing coverage by a beat reporter: “What would you like political reporter Khalid Jones to ask your city council member?”

  • To power real life, live events. E.g., using audience questions for trivia nights, town hall meetings, live show tapings, panel discussions, etc.

  • Our voting modules help newsrooms validate interest in questions and story ideas before any time, money and valuable resources are spent covering those stories. Our goal is to help newsrooms know before they start a story that what they report is relevant to their audiences.

+ What types of stories does using Hearken produce?

The type of final media stories made with Hearken can be anything -- be it TV, web or radio stories, newspaper articles, interactive data visualizations, comic books, etc. Hearken is all about the process.

Our approach and tools helps newsrooms identify information gaps their audiences have and leads to stories that fill those gaps. Frequently we see the resulting stories being contextual, explainer stories about how or why something came to be. These are the types of stories that create strong engagement, travel very well on social media, and that are often “evergreen” and stay relevant for a long time, continuously attracting traffic. We find these stories don’t always fit neatly into newsroom beats, and can transcend traditional editorial filters for what makes a story.

To see examples of stories that have been produced using Hearken, visit our Partner Stories page.

+ What support does Hearken offer?

In addition to our toolset, Hearken subscribers have access to our knowledge base with articles detailing successful engagement strategies and case studies, as well as to our community of best practices where they can connect with reporters around the world who are using our tools and framework.

We also offer our team’s comprehensive technical and editorial expertise for support. We’re here to assist with everything from customizing embeddable modules to perfecting question prompts to strategies for attracting new audiences via social media and live events. We’re more than a tech company.


Pricing

+ How much does it cost?

The cost of an annual Hearken subscription is based on a sliding scale that takes a number of factors into consideration including organization size and monthly traffic. Non-profit newsrooms receive a discount. Find more information on our Pricing page.

+ How do Newsrooms pay for their Hearken subscription?

Hearken benefits many aspects of a newsroom, and can come out of one or many set budgets.

We often see organizations use:

  • Editorial budget because Hearken leads to high-performing stories
  • Systems budget because Hearken creates digital efficiency
  • Marketing budget because Hearken generates new leads for fundraising and subscriptions
  • Events budget because Hearken can be harnessed for live events

We’ve seen many newsrooms find outside money, too via:

  • Advertising & sponsorship for a Hearken-powered series
  • Grants awarded for innovation, new media and audience engagement initiatives
  • Major Donors

Using Hearken

+ Who is currently using Hearken and how are they using it?

Hearken is all about process; the final products newsrooms create can be anything. Our tools are currently being used by broadcasters (TV and radio), newspapers, pure digital news outlets, in reporting project collaborations and by organizations in six countries on four continents. Many newsrooms are using Hearken to power a general assignment series, some are using Hearken for targeted series, daily segments and reporting collaborations with outside organizations.

Our toolset allows journalists to use Hearken in multiple ways within one newsroom and with one subscription. Check out some stories produced with Hearken here.

+ How often do newsrooms need to make stories with Hearken?

There are no requirements or limitations on how often journalists should produce stories with our tools. We can say conclusively that producing stories with frequency and regularity leads to more audience engagement. We recommend at the very least one story per month.

One reporter using the tools will produce fewer stories than if it’s a tool employed by the entire newsroom. We encourage newsrooms to experiment in using Hearken in various contexts throughout the organization.

+ How do newsrooms staff Hearken?

Every newsroom staffs Hearken differently. It’s a bit like asking how to staff Twitter. Hearken is a tool that can be used in various contexts. For newsrooms that run special series based on Hearken, many have one editor, reporter or producer that oversees their Hearken series and enlists other reporters to cover stories. Some organizations have a dedicated staff of multiple people (usually an editor, and one or two producers) that work on producing Hearken-powered content more consistently. It’s not necessary to hire additional staff to use Hearken. The largest adjustment is approaching stories from a different starting point and using Hearken to support that process.

+ Is Hearken mobile-friendly?

Indeed! Hearken will work seamlessly with mobile-friendly websites. Our embeddable modules are responsive and scale to the website they’re hosted on and the screen they’re being viewed on.

Hearken standalone sites are also fully responsive and scale for mobile viewing.

+ Does Hearken integrate with social media?

Hearken is not directly embeddable on social media. Facebook and Twitter do not allow embed codes. Hearken helps draw traffic and engagement to your website and bring audience relationships into your management system. This way, the questions, votes and emails collected aren’t lost to Twitter streams and Facebook comments.

Social media is still a fantastic tool to stoke engagement with Hearken. Many organizations use social media to prompt audiences to ask questions and vote by posting screenshots of their Hearken curiosity module or voting module with corresponding links.

Newsrooms can configure Hearken to add social media share buttons to the modules where audiences vote for their favorite questions or submit their own. That way audience members can encourage their friends and networks to participate.


Getting Started

+ How do I get started and how long does it take?

We offer a two month free trial before payment is due. If you’re curious about how Hearken’s tools would work in your newsroom, you can take it for a test drive! To get started with a trial, get in touch and we’ll set a short meeting to get you setup.

After our initial meeting, we can get you onboarded and immediately set you up with your Hearken toolset. Configuring Hearken modules (the audience-engagement widgets you embed on your site) is quick and simple and it is not uncommon for folks to go live within a day.

+ Do I need a web developer or technical expertise to use Hearken?

Absolutely not! Hearken’s platform is designed to be easily used by anyone and everyone in a newsroom. Our intuitive backend management system is ready to use right away. For those who know HTML and CSS, we offer advanced options for look and feel.

We also have comprehensive technical documentation to help those who don’t consider themselves tech savvy and are always a phone call or email away. We’re happy to guide you or set up a call and screenshare.

+ Do I need a logo and a clever name to launch a Hearken series?

Nope! When you are configuring your Hearken tools you can call them whatever you would like. A lot of newsrooms have created special series based around our framework and named them something fun (E.g., Local Wonder, Curious City, Raise Your Hand), but many use their organization’s logo and go live without creating a custom brand.

You can also launch Hearken tools on your website with your newsroom’s logo while you work to design original branding for a series. We encourage this method because it allows you to start engaging your audience immediately and start collecting questions for your series without delay.

+ What exactly does the Hearken technology do and how does it work?

Upon subscribing, you’re given access to an administrative backend website. It’s used to configure custom modules that can be embedded wherever you’d like on your website, no matter your content management system (CMS). These modules prompt your audience to take actions such as submitting questions, voting on which stories they’d like you to cover, and collect email addresses for newsletters and subscriptions. Your Hearken backend website is where you can manage this audience engagement. You can create one or many different modules, all of which send the data they receive back to your Hearken backend site for you to view and manage.

You can also use your backend to set up a standalone site (see below).

+ What is a standalone site?

A standalone site is an optional, white-label website where audiences can submit questions, vote on their favorite of curated questions, and view and comment on questions that have been submitted by other audience members. They can also navigate here to check out which questions have been answered and follow links to see the stories those answers produced.

Standalone sites are optional and can be configured at any point during your subscription. Most newsrooms start with embeddable audience engagement modules and then set up their standalone sites after they’ve collected questions and reported a few stories.

+ Do I have to both collect questions and allow the public to vote?

The Hearken tools can be used together or separately. If you are simply interested in collecting questions from your audience but do not want to give them the option to vote, you don’t have to! Likewise you can give your audience the opportunity to vote (on their story ideas or yours) without giving them the option to submit questions, too.

Note: Hearken allows newsrooms to select which questions will go up for a vote. It is not a free-for-all in which any question submitted can win and be assigned. You maintain editorial control over which stories you’ll consider reporting.

+ Do you offer tools for individuals?

At this time Hearken is designed for enterprise-level newsrooms, organizations, and projects. We’ll be developing tools for individuals in the near future. Sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to stay in touch about future product developments!

+ I’m interested, but not quite ready. How do I stay in the loop?

Sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of this page) for future updates about Hearken and new product developments.


Have a question that wasn't answered on this page? Ask us using the Hearken curiosity module embedded below and we'll get back to you as soon as we're able!