Audience Engagement and Onboarding with Hearken

Students are working closely with the team at Hearken, and are gaining valuable insights into how important audience engagement is to our media landscape.

An outgrowth of WBEZ’s Curious City, Hearken is an audience engagement platform that serves news organizations across the globe. Its model posits that a news organization’s performance will be stronger if it engages more regularly with audiences, using that engagement to guide its editorial direction and news coverage. Hearken uses what it calls an EMS, or Engagement Management System, which is the backend tool for its clients. Some of their clients settle into simple workflows and neglect to dig deeper into the platform’s power; this project will help envision, test, and potentially build a better onboarding and in-context tools for Hearken. (Onboarding is a system designed to help users acquire the knowledge required to use a tool, app, website, etc. In-context tools are those that appear within the environment itself—as opposed to a separate instruction manual, tutorial, or helper bot.)

This meaningful application to an existing piece of software will provide students with an opportunity to grapple with the difficulties of distilling important information into easy-to-digest, accessible chunks, at the appropriate moments, without annoying users. The problems students will solve relate to user flows, information design, and interaction design. Hearken aims to design and implement a new design and user flow for the EMS in early 2017, so your research and work will be crucial in helping them identify problem areas and ideate better solutions. Students will work closely with the team at Hearken, and will gain valuable insights into how important audience engagement is to our media landscape.

Presentation Slides


Results from the project

Faculty and Staff Leads

Emily Withrow

Joe Germuska

Chief Nerd

Joe runs Knight Lab’s technology, professional staff and student fellows. Before joining us, Joe was on the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. Also, he hosts a weekly radio show on WNUR-FM – Conference of the Birds.


Cindy Cheng

Nick Hagar

Mengyi Jenny Sun

Rachel Wolfe

Ashley Zhang