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.

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

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

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Trushar Barot   API or die

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

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

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

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

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

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

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

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

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

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

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

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

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

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click