The year of the user

“It is building exceptional editorial design sensibilities — and the character of our communities or content — into our products that will separate us from easy-to-install WordPress themes.”

Five years of chasing clicks has made browsing the news one of the worst user experiences on the Internet. Depending on the size of the homepage takeover, it can be hard to tell if you’re looking at a slot machine or a news website. Prestigious publications have pushdown video ads playing between the paragraphs of stories. In local markets, the same type of ad doesn’t have a stop or pause button. Relentless Google Survey questions separate us from articles. It is difficult for users to login, reset their password, or become paying subscribers.

andy-rossbackIf you think about design, it’s not hard to see why fake news sites exist. They look a lot like real news sites. The media industry has neglected to hire or empower the tech, design, and product people who can change that. Even worse, fake news sites are eating our lunch by serving up the same click-driven ad model without the overhead of doing any real reporting. None of this is said with disrespect to the talented sales staffs who hustle everyday to make the numbers work. We can’t afford to leave money on the table, and bad advertising is also only part of the problem. But ultimately, it is building exceptional editorial design sensibilities — and the character of our communities or content — into our products that will separate us from easy-to-install WordPress themes. News design, at its most useful, is an important media literacy tool.

So 2017 will be the year of the user. In the lifespan of digital news websites, it’s a tectonic shift from advertiser-first to user-first. Like the disorganized printed newspapers of the 1800s, some will put design to work in the service of credibility and be better off. Gains in subscriber and donation revenue (not just the post-election gains) will relieve enough pressure to allow for some soul searching. These models are realigning profits with user experience. Users will pay — but we have to offer something good. We will realign our design and user experience with the same ethics and standards we bring to our journalism. We will finally have a clear product strategy: drive subscriptions by focusing on content. We will take a page from Quartz and favor high-end advertisements that add value for the user over JavaScript-heavy programmatic ads that degrade performance. We will give users an uninterrupted path to editorial offerings and use design to enhance them.

Andy Rossback is a designer and developer at The New York Times.

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

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

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

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

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

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Trushar Barot   API or die

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

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

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

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

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

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

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

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

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

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

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Mario Garcia   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis