A terrible year for Tiers B through D

“Digital media just isn’t a great business right now, and the idea of ‘acquiring millennials’ by buying up a site like Elite Daily has now proven to be at best very risky and at worst extremely dumb.”

2017 will almost certainly be a terrible year for the media industry, if you view industry-wide layoffs and cost-cutting to be a bad thing. There’s a case to be made that media companies are smart to be stripping down and trying to do more with less, considering that no one has yet figured out a business model that will work for a wide swath of the industry. The darlings of the biz — The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, etc. — should be fine, but I expect the companies in Tiers B through D to really suffer next year.

jeremy-barrIn particular, I expect a handful of VC-funded digital media companies to either sell low to bigger companies or implode. While most of these companies don’t want to be associated with Elite Daily, The Daily Mail’s recent decision to write down the value of its 2015 acquisition is bad news for this corner of the industry. Digital media just isn’t a great business right now, and the idea of “acquiring millennials” by buying up a site like Elite Daily has now proven to be at best very risky and at worst extremely dumb.

I imagine that a few companies will hit the brakes on producing branded content next year, since it’s expensive to make and there’s way too much of it flooding the market. It seems pretty clear at this point that branded content will not save the media industry. It won’t replace print advertising, and it won’t prop up digital companies that don’t make any consumer revenue and are relying on the promise of it to back up their lofty valuations.

I hope that we’ll actually start seeing some TV shows from the digital media companies — like BuzzFeed, Vox Media, and Mashable — that have been talking about TV for a while now. TV is hard to make, of course, but I’m ready to see whether there’d actually be an audience for a BuzzFeed show. (We’ll find out soon whether there’s an audience for a BuzzFeed movie, with the Brother Orange feature — starring the guy from Big Bang Theory — in development.) These companies are hoping that TV will provide a healthy new revenue stream, and something of a contingency plan if marketers lose interest in branded content.

In 2017, I sincerely, earnestly hope that journalists will stop fighting on Twitter over minor differences in opinion or style. Fighting on Twitter is fun but not productive. Besides, things are rocky right now, and we need to huddle together, not subtweet the shit out of each other for no reason. That being said, I reserve the right to publish snarky tweets about dumb headlines.

Jeremy Barr has covered the media industry for Politico and Ad Age.

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Trushar Barot   API or die

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value