R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

“It sounds better to say you’re ‘shifting resources into short-form video’ than that you desperately need to reduce your run rate.”

In 2017, if you couldn’t find an audience or revenue model, for any of a myriad of reasons, there was apparently only one thing to do: pivot to video!

And while that’s become a media punchline, it’s not hard to see why the publishers who took that approach did. As the content boom finally seemed to go bust (see: Mashable, Mic, and Vice) and platforms proved themselves increasingly unreliable (read: terrible) partners, focusing on video was a Hail Mary attempt to ease economic and investor pressure by pandering to ad buyer preferences. It sounds better to say you’re “shifting resources into short-form video” than that you desperately need to reduce your run rate.

But it has already proven extremely shortsighted. There is no evidence consumers want more video, and video production is expensive, logistically difficult, and hard to scale (read Heidi Moore’s excellent CJR piece for more on this). There are early signs that even ad buyers are realizing video isn’t some panacea, and will redistribute some of their budgets accordingly in the coming year. And perhaps most importantly, such pivots seemed universally to come at the expense of good journalists and editors, still the beating heart of newsrooms and who didn’t deserve to be “strategically” discarded. It’s time to officially declare this particular approach dead and admit it’s not, in fact, a strategy or solution.

I’m not suggesting video isn’t an essential part of any content mix in 2018. It is, and as someone who spent many years working in TV and video, I know that some stories are better told visually. But video storytelling is an actual skill, developed over years of working in the medium, not something you pick up through osmosis by getting stoned in college and watching YouTube videos. It’s insulting to the people who do it well to assume that it’s a shortcut to success.

That’s why publishers who made the pivot are now pivoting away again, looking for the next thing that may “save” them. But that’s an endless cycle of restrategizing and layoffs. There is no easy answer, no one thing that’s going to magically make audiences find and connect to your work. The secret to success in journalism isn’t a secret at all: Make very good things that people actually want to read and watch. That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything.

Susie Banikarim is editorial director of the Gizmodo Media Group.

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

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

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Jake Levine   The return to now

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

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

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

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

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

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

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

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

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

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

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

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

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

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

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

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

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

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

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

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

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

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

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

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Paul Ford   Go global

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Burt Herman   Things get real

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game