Back to basics

“Those who were duped by the fake news and half-truths that ran rampant won’t be fooled again. They want to be educated. They want to trust.”

Who doesn’t have whiplash from 2016? If this was the year of “do it all,” 2017 will be the year of “do it best.”

Platforms are evolving at breakneck speed, leaving publishers to choose their strategic battles and readers with more options than ever. The noise in what’s become a crowded digital space isn’t going to dull, but the audience is learning what to listen to. Publishers need only hear them.

In 2017, we must get back to basics. But that doesn’t mean being basic.

Readers aren’t distracted by bells and whistles. They know what they want, and that’s quality — wherever they consume news. Most readers are platform agnostic — on their phones switching between iMessage, email, Twitter, and Snapchat all day. Why should what they see in Apple News or on a Facebook Instant Article be inferior to what they could experience on a publisher’s site or app?

In digital media, we should always be in beta. But we don’t have to skimp on quality to open the door to creativity. If we take one thing away from this election, it should be that journalism matters. Facts are important. Reporting will be rewarded. And if you can put it all together in a thoughtful, digestible way, readers will respond. They are aching for someone to depend on.

Politics divided the nation in 2016. But journalism will unify us. Those who were duped by the fake news and half-truths that ran rampant won’t be fooled again. They want to be educated. They want to trust. The uptick in subscriptions across many major organizations tells us so. Now it’s on us to deliver. It’s on us to perfect content, experience and product. In 2017, our loyalty must be to the reader.

Coleen O’Lear is editorial director for emerging news products at The Washington Post.

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