Building our own communities

“If we want people to stand up for our journalism, and to trust us again, we need to bring them closer to our work, to learn more about them, and to offer a range of ways to have a meaningful impact on what we do.”

In 2017, newsrooms will finally push back against Facebook. We will create our own community spaces on and offline — not to replicate the social media giant, but to carve out a lucrative niche around what Facebook does badly and journalism does best. We’ll do it because it’s our best chance of survival.

We’ll do it because:

It will improve journalism

andrew-losowskyDo you believe that there are smart, interesting people among your audience, people who could be potential sources or even potential hires? If so, how could you find them?

Up to now, as an industry, we’ve mostly failed to give our audiences any real avenues to engage with us on an ongoing basis, beyond letters to the editor and an occasional Google form. Even when people do reach out, we keep no record of it, and a few days later we’ve mostly forgotten who they are.

There are exceptions. ProPublica has created a database of more than 3,350 stories about Agent Orange by reaching out and creating a sustained community around the topic.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times hired a new columnist after a comment he left on their site went viral. Last year, The Atlantic named Yoni Appelbaum as politics editor — he was originally hired after being spotted as a talented commenter on one of their blogs.

These are rare examples. Due to a vicious circle of abuse and underinvestment, many journalists proudly say that they never read the comments on their work. In a forthcoming study The Coral Project has commissioned from the Engaging News Project at the University of Texas, more than 9,500 commenters across 20 news sites around the country were surveyed. 58 percent of respondents said they wished that journalists actually contributed in the comments. Better tools and a culture change are long overdue. (The Coral Project is working on both.)

This year, we’ve seen a lack of trust in news organizations increase as we’ve become worse at listening to what ordinary people are saying. While we lament our bubbles, a diverse audience that enjoys our work and wants to contribute is right in front of us, begging to be taken seriously. Why should our readers listen to us if we don’t listen to them?

Strong community will diversify your business model

A report this year in MIT Sloan Management Review, based on five years of research by Gal Oestreicher-Singer and Lior Zalmanson, draws a clear link between onsite community and a willingness of people to pay for services. We’re starting to see this being applied to journalism: technology news site The Information uses its strong comments section as a selling point to subscribers. Dutch news site De Correspondent runs its own speakers agency for its journalists.

Hosting community is also financially smart for those who include time on site in their key metrics. It should be no surprise that people who read and write comments spend longer on the page than those who just read the article. Advertisers take such numbers seriously. Do you?

Healthy democracy relies on healthy debate

Social media filter bubbles are real. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter aren’t incentivized to burst them — and even if they were, they structurally can’t have an opinion about what makes for an interesting or useful editorial contribution.

This is where journalism steps in. We’re all about identifying what is meaningful and relevant, not just socially optimized for clicks. We can set the terms for the discussion, and then focus our reporting based on the community’s areas of interest. We need to invite and find useful contributions across the ideological spectrum — and include them in our journalism. Facebook can’t do this. We can.

The time is now

We need to take back ownership of the relationship with our community members. If we want people to stand up for our journalism, and to trust us again, we need to bring them closer to our work, to learn more about them, and to offer a range of ways to have a meaningful impact on what we do. This is not a nice-to-have any more.

The days of broadcasting from the top of the mountain are over. Our audiences need us, and we need them. In 2017, we will finally learn how to sidestep the big blue thumb, and get engaged.

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Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

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Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

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Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

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

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

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

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

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

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

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Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

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

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

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Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

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Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

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Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

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Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Trushar Barot   API or die

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

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Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

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Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

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Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

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Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

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Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

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Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

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