Looking beyond news for inspiration

“Some considerations are unique to our industry, but working in a deadline-driven business with tight margins is surprisingly universal.”

When giving gifts to people working in news, I find that friends have done their required reading. I forgo Katherine Graham’s book Personal History, Susan Tiftt’s The Trust about the Sulzberger family, and even Lynsey Addario’s It’s What I Do. I’ve found a gift of a more service-oriented tome like Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business to be a useful addition. Yes, Meyer is the restaurateur behind Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack, and what his guidance has to do with the news business is…everything.

More news publishing staff and freelancers are becoming curious about the lessons to be learned outside of our industry. This is a good and useful change. Researchers find that inquiries into “analogous spaces” can be enlightening in unexpected ways. I saw this at The New York Times when taking members of our newsroom research and development team to talk with non-obvious experts about how to best show our own archival coverage. We interviewed a bookstore owner and a DJ who specialized in remixing seemingly dated tracks, among others. Hearing how the staff at busy SoHo shop McNally Jackson plans which books to display on its highest traffic tables offered a deep dive on the topics of curation and fostering a feeling of urgency. We learned more from the theories and experiences they shared than we might have in talking to the same number or more of our peers about the topic.

Next year, more of us in news will immerse ourselves in alternate but highly relevant spaces. Many membership and editorial teams, including those from Chicago’s City Bureau and the regional Texas Tribune, are hungry for this intel. Consider it a chance for an injection of fresh thinking. Talking to others who are thinking about financial sustainability (including people in fundraising, impact investing, and medicine) is a humble acknowledgement that solid ideas can come from spaces beyond our own. A few friends who work in news strategy have found volunteering with the ocean cleanup organization Surfrider Foundation to be a welcome relief from discussing deadlines — and sometimes a surprise opportunity for insights when talking to fellow members who work in architecture and other fields.

We’re not the first people to look outside ourselves for relevant expertise (as Melody Kramer wrote several years ago in exploring what motorcycle manufacturing might teach news), but it does require some initial suspension of disbelief. Seeking out companies like Stitch Fix might not initially seem like a 1-to-1 comparison, but it might behoove us to ask about the principles and practices that that clothing subscription service has learned on their way to their IPO. Some considerations are unique to our industry, but working in a deadline-driven business with tight margins is surprisingly universal.

We’ll study more organizations that provide services their users consider invaluable — Amazon Prime, Planned Parenthood, and hyperlocal weather app Dark Sky — and seek out their power users, too. What do they do fantastically well? What has the organization started offering, then scrapped, and why? (Even if you use these or other analogous services personally, talk to other people who don’t think about products and delivery all day long. We’re not designing for ourselves, as tempting as that may be.)

Jesse Littlewood, digital director of democratic action network Common Cause, told a group of publishers this week that “we are less used to telling the story of impact than the story of the work. [People in news are] less likely to be braggadocios than some folks in this world.” This is usually seen as a virtue, but raises another question: Who might we seek out who can teach us about authentic promotions? Think music producers, documentary filmmakers, and more — and please share what you learn.

I’m hopeful that we’ll include more experts from other spaces at our conferences — and that we seek them out personally, too. Perhaps we could substitute some of our time spent wringing our hands about Facebook’s News Feed algorithm (a valid concern, but an exhausting one) with talking to people who can expand our ideas about creativity in business. Less navel-gazing, more possibilities.

Illustrations by Leon Postma of De Correspondent.

Emily Goligoski is research director for the Membership Puzzle Project, a collaboration between De Correspondent and New York University.

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

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

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

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

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

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

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

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

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

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Burt Herman   Things get real

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

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

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

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

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

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

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

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

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jake Levine   The return to now

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

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

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

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Paul Ford   Go global

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

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

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

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

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

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

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

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

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Dan Newman   A return to trust