Head of Visuals, NZZ

Wondering out loud about journalism

August 4, 2014 (updated on December 28, 2014)

After leaving TagesWoche, I’m taking some time off. To travel, to meet people, to work on some projects of mine – and eventually to figure out what to tackle next.

I hope to spend a good part of the coming months pondering on a number of tough challenges and new ideas I consider relevant for journalism to thrive in a digital context. These are no secrets, so I’ve compiled a list of topics, assumptions and questions about journalism and the media business that keep me busy.

Please get in touch if you think we should talk about or join forces for one of these issues.

Topics, questions and assumptions

(in no particular order, list will be updated as I go along)

  • There’s great potential in the right mixture of algorithmic, crowdsourced and authoritative curation. Update: Wrote an article on why this matters: To compete with the web’s giants, news organisations need to become better at sending people away
  • Every story and every news event creates a micro-community.
  • Redundancy everywhere. Just look around.
  • Most news sites are very bad at keeping readers once they’ve gotten their attention for the very first time.
  • Once a reader has finished an article, we should offer him more. More of what?
  • People will not pay for news. They will pay for a distinctive voice.
  • The zoomable article
  • How to define and measure success of individual stories? Would it make sense to calculate expected metrics (“for a story like this, we should get X”) and then measure if a story lives up to its potential?
  • Too much journalism is sold via guilt («you should care about this»), not curiosity («this is worth your time»). Young people don’t buy into this.
  • The renewed popularity of newsletters points to a flaw in the system of news distribution.
  • Semi-automated journalism, or, if you prefer a buzzword: robot journalism.
  • Self-updating / realtime data journalism
  • Time-based personalisation: A news site should show me the most relevant stories I’ve missed since my last visit (wrote a blogpost about it a while ago in German, should probably translate and update it).
  • Collaboration rather than comments: Give readers tasks and let them give you tasks.
  • Why is hardly any journalistic content embeddable?
  • Why do journalists keep saying curiosity is key to their job when most are stupefyingly incurious about how journalism is changing?
  • Stock and flow
  • How can we make journalism work on ever smaller screens?
  • How can we optimise content for each of the platforms it is published on – while at the same time storing it in a way that is completely platform-agnostic and thus future-proof?
  • A lot of what’s published as a standalone article is in fact an update to or a new version of a previous article. Newsroom technology and workflows need to support this.
  • How can news be told as games without trivialising it?

My projects

  • Continue the Weekly Filet as a standalone project, integrate it in someone’s offer or build an empire around it? First update: A completely revamped archive is live. Second update: Supporter program launched.
  • Looking for a longterm collaboration partner for Dystopia Tracker. I think we’re onto something, but it needs more resources.
  • Should we resuscitate #gutetexte? In what form? With whom? (pinging @oler und @j_nb)
  • Just leave Instacurate as it is? What could it become if more time is invested?
  • Update: A new project! Facts to go – a platform for sharing and discovering facts.

These are great times for journalism. This is how I work:


I grew up as a journalist of words. It remains one of my favourite means to tell stories. Chosen wisely, put in the correct order and structured well, words are as powerful as ever.


When we build applications, when we report and present stories in novel ways, code is what drives them. Speak the language of computers, make them work for you.

How I Learnt to Code


Call it data journalism, if you will. Numbers and data in general are a wonderful raw material to work with. I dig for stories and tell them in visually compelling ways.


My work has appeared in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, Quartz, Spiegel Online, Das Magazin, Tages-Anzeiger, SonntagsZeitung, TagesWoche, among others.

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