Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

“There will be experimentation with a Netflix model, where organizations start with what users want and then understand the economics of each area for journalism. Netflix has demonstrated very clearly that following users’ needs does not need to result in a drop in quality.”

Most news organizations have failed to truly transform over the past few years. Any innovation and change initiatives have been little more than tinkering.

2017 was a particularly bad year for this, with numerous publishers apparently pursuing a strategy of howling in protest against Google and Facebook as well loudly as shouting “I told you so” with the recent news of revenue disappointment and cutbacks at firms such as BuzzFeed.

2018 will undoubtedly bring more of the same — but the industry will finally see the first seeds of radical reinvention. We will see most change in 2018 in three main areas:

  • A radical shift in the topics covered in mainstream journalism. The industry agrees there is too much replication of the same content — sometimes even within the same publication. I counted countless articles on the day of the royal engagement announcement from one U.K. newspaper alone. Even the comment thread was full of readers complaining “enough is enough.”
    • The traditional genres of news, lifestyle, business, and sport will begin to break apart. After all, these topic areas represent the staffing structure of a newspaper from 100-plus years ago
    • Instead, there will be experimentation with a Netflix model, where organizations start with what users want and then understand the economics of each area for journalism. Netflix has demonstrated very clearly that following users’ needs does not need to result in a drop in quality.
    • As a result, there will be a blossoming of widely different topics that move beyond fringe interest groups, whether bio-hacking, mindfulness, or extending human lifespan.
    • And this approach will likely lead most publishers to begin to manage their journalism much more tightly through the lens of the long tail.
  • The rise (or return) of journalism that has been written off as uneconomical: Everybody in the industry feels regret that local news coverage has been hit hardest by the industry’s tough times, despite continued evidence of significant user desire for good local news reporting and a real need to hold local politicians to account. But the economics of employing legions of local journalists to cover relevant local government meetings does not work. However, with the rise of machine learning, the economics can change. Imagine if you could automate the journalism of local authority decisions through the machine learning of official meeting minutes. Suddenly, local journalism could become economically viable again. 2018 should herald at least one new startup experimenting with local news at scale.
  • We will see advertising abandoned and/or reinvented by a handful of leading publishers.
    • Some publishers will abandon advertising as it continues to generate diminishing returns and increasingly dismays users.
    • More sophisticated publishers will halt advertising on pages where it hinders long-term economic performance (in terms of loyalty or other revenue opportunities). And they will reinvent advertising on the pages where it provides value to the users (especially in those new emerging topics for mainstream journalism).
    • The consumer revolt against advertising will continue with paywall publications coming under increasing pressure to stop intrusive ads appearing to customers who have already paid to access content.
    • Finally, in 2018, we may see the first major news organization relaunch a section of its coverage, such as travel, with an e-commerce-first offering (rather than the traditional model of journalism with commerce on the sides). This will be in recognition of e-commerce in some areas being an equal partner to journalism in the eyes of the users. Curated commerce offerings will provide as much value to readers as the articles surrounding it.

Tanya Cordrey is a digital non-executive director, former Schibsted board member, and former chief digital officer at Guardian News & Media.

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Burt Herman   Things get real

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Paul Ford   Go global

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Jake Levine   The return to now

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations