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

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

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

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

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

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Trushar Barot   API or die

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

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

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

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

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

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

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

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

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

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

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid