+ What is Hearken?

Hearken is a company. The word Hearken means “listen.” We help organizations listen to the public as they develop content from pitch to publication. Our unique model is called public-powered journalism. Using Hearken’s consulting services and platform, our partners generate deep audience engagement that builds trust, leads to original, high-performing journalism, yields valuable data and attracts more paying subscribers.

We offer a variety of services to help meet organizations where they are at on their path toward more responsive journalism.

+ What does Hearken do?

We help transition newsroom staff from a production-oriented mindset to an audience-focused mindset. We allow them to re-envision the public not as consumers, but as partners who have valuable insights to contribute to their work.

Our custom platform enables the public to submit questions or vote on questions they would like journalists to investigate and report. For newsroom staff, our platform becomes a centralized Engagement Management System, keeping valuable insights and data organized, exportable and ready for action. Reporters can easily get in touch with the public directly, and staff responsible for audience growth love that the public can opt-into newsletters and deeper relationships with the newsroom.

+ How can journalists and newsrooms apply public-powered journalism?

Newsrooms can use the public-powered journalism model for any and all types of reporting.

  • 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 embeds 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.

At its core, Hearken helps your organization harness the curiosity and identify information gaps of your audience so you can better serve their needs.

+ 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, live events, etc.

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.

To see examples of stories that have been produced using Hearken, visit our roundup of partner stories.

+ What support does Hearken offer?

Unlike pure technology-based companies, Hearken partners get hands-on expert strategic support throughout the life of our partnership. Our team of journalists will train your newsroom in how to work with the public in new ways, plan new initiatives, get you set up for successful social media campaigns and help you find paid sponsorship for your Hearken-powered work.

Additionally, partners 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 framework and platform.




+ How much does working with Hearken cost?

It depends! Our strategists work with your teams to achieve a variety of goals. Reach out to for more information and to set up a call to see which Hearken services are right for your organization.

+ How do Newsrooms pay for working with Hearken?

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


Deploying Public-powered journalism

+ Who is currently partnering with Hearken and what are they doing?

Hearken is all about process; the final products newsrooms create can be anything. Our EMS is 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 our public-powered method to power a general assignment series, some are using Hearken for targeted series, daily segments, events and reporting collaborations with outside organizations.

Our toolset allows journalists to use Hearken in multiple ways within one newsroom and with one subscription.

+ How often do newsrooms need to make public-powered stories?

There are no requirements or limitations on how often journalists should produce stories with our approach. 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 method will produce fewer stories than if it’s employed by the entire newsroom. We encourage newsrooms to experiment in using public-powered journalism in various contexts throughout the organization. Public-powered journalism is a strategy your entire newsroom can benefit from.

+ How do newsrooms staff public-powered journalism?

Every newsroom staffs their public-powered work differently. It’s a bit like asking how to staff for social media. Our EMS 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.

+ Are Hearken's tools mobile-friendly?

Indeed! Our EMS works seamlessly with mobile-friendly websites. Our embeds are responsive and scale to the website they’re hosted on and the screen they’re being viewed on.

+ Does Hearken's EMS integrate with social media?

Our embeds can be placed in Facebook Instant Articles and our partners use direct links to Hearken embeds on Twitter.

You may wonder: "Why not just use Facebook to implement public-powered journalism?" There are so many reasons, and you can read all of them here.

In short, our model and tech helps draw traffic and engagement to your website and bring audience relationships into your management system. This way, the valuable questions, votes and emails collected aren’t owned by and lost to Twitter and Facebook.

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 and links to their embeds and pages.

Newsrooms can configure Hearken's EMS to add social media share buttons to the embeds 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 partnering with Hearken and how long does it take?

We can get you up and running with public-powered journalism as soon as you're ready! We do not offer a self-service tech tool because our model requires working with the public in a new way, and that is all about mindset shift and strategy. We prepare you with training, consulting and getting your newsroom ready to work in an exciting new way. We've had partners go from zero to launch within a week, but it all depends on how ready your staff is. Contact us to set up a strategy call.

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

Absolutely not! Hearken’s EMS is designed to be easily used by anyone and everyone in a newsroom.

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.

Unlike open source software, we host and maintain the system and take care of all of your related technical needs so you can focus your valuable resources on what you're meant to do: report. This also means you don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on developers to maintain and support the technology.

+ Do I need a logo and a clever name to launch a public-powered 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), but many use their organization’s logo and go live without creating a custom brand.

You can also launch Hearken's EMS 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 your Engagement Management System (EMS). It’s used to configure custom embeds that can be embedded wherever you’d like on your website, no matter your content management system (CMS). These embeds 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 EMS is where you can manage this audience engagement. You can create one or many different embeds, all of which send the data they receive back to your Hearken Engagement Management System (EMS) for you to view and manage.

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

The Hearken EMS 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 anything for individuals?

At this time Hearken's technology is designed for newsrooms, organizations, and projects. We do offer membership for individuals (see our Services tab above). 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.