The resurgence of reach

“The mantra of ‘know your users and just concentrate on them’ may leave some news organizations fishing in an ever-shrinking pool of similar users.”

2016 was the year when numerous publishers publicly abandoned reach as a goal. Metrics around total unique were derided as vanity measurements and the narrative in the industry became about building smaller and more valuable audiences.

tanya-cordreyThis was understandable. Advertising revenues had begun to stall. And it looked unlikely that digital advertising alone would prove to be a viable economic model. Even the promise of off-platform revenues through Google’s AMP or Facebook’s Instant Articles failed to dramatically shift many publishers’ economics.

But 2017 will likely see a resurgence of reach as a key metric in journalism. After all, maybe it was not the metric that was broken, but the way it was used — especially in terms of monetization and better understanding and adapting to users.

The power of reach is not reach in itself. As a measurement, it fails on many counts and reveals little in isolation. But over the coming year, some in the industry will reconnect with the idea of reach as it allows publishers to constantly acquire new audiences, boost trust and relevance, and identify several new veins of revenue.

This is not a new practice. One example is Guardian News & Media, which several years ago analyzed its digital audience to discover a new and growing group of users with a keen interest in all things green and sustainability. This was an emerging, hard-to-find, and therefore valuable segment for advertisers. It transpired that The Guardian had probably the best reach within this user group in the U.K. (if not globally at one point), not just for green consumer audiences, but also within the sustainability industry itself. This led to the growth of healthy B2C and B2B revenue streams.

But the difference today is that it can be done in realtime and on multiple platforms at the same time. The flows of users are a constant river of new information and nimble publishers will begin build on this information to identify emerging, valuable audience segments and to better understand the ebbs and flows of the world’s information gathering.

Under this world, publishers can work proactively with advertisers to mend today’s very broken model and to help deliver advertising that is more relevant, more timely, and more impactful (and because of this, I believe, less intrusive).

Therefore, reach allows publishers to cast their nets widely. It will allow publishers to move beyond the common user segmentation of verticals such as news, politics, or sport (which, amazingly, often reflects how newspaper layout was organized a hundred years ago).

Last year’s retreat from reach may prove harmful. The mantra of “know your users and just concentrate on them” may leave some news organizations fishing in an ever-shrinking pool of similar users. And one person’s like-minded community is another person’s echo chamber.

But for others, the fluid nature of audience reach can provide an exciting path forward. Publishers will embrace the fact that audiences and interests change every moment of every day. And they will embrace the knowledge that broadening their journalism’s reach today could capture tomorrow’s most valuable users.

Tanya Cordrey is a non-executive director of Schibsted and the former chief digital officer of Guardian News & Media.

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

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

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

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

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

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

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

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

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

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

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

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

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Trushar Barot   API or die

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem