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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Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

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

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

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

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

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

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

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

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

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

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

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

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

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

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Trushar Barot   API or die

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too