Revenue-first journalism

“No newsroom will launch a new initiative without having a clear plan for its financial sustainability.”

2018 brings a focus to revenue-first journalism, broader and stronger efforts to drive trust in news, and simple, short content and distribution formats.

  • Revenue first: Mobile-first strategies will continue to be vital to reach audiences, and the low cost of innovation will continue to allow for low-risk experimentation, but the focus for new journalism projects will be revenue-first. No newsroom will launch a new initiative without having a clear plan for its financial sustainability. Legacy newsrooms and start-ups will deal with it in their own ways, i.e., The New York Times cutting its free articles limit from 10 to 5 per month to drive subscriptions, and Axios focusing on owning a specific audience and diversifying its sources of revenue by selling sponsorships, ads, and events.
  • Trust: News organizations, foundations, and nonprofits will embark on major efforts to drive and strengthen trust in journalism and news brands. In a context in which the president attacks the credibility of news organizations on a daily basis, we will see more efforts that range from slogans like The Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness” to The Trust Project, which aims to create standards of transparency in journalism to build a trusted press. We will also see more investments in bulletproof reporting. All trust efforts will highlight two elements: clarity and engagement. Clarity in the form of explainers, reporter bios, a clear differentiation between reporting and opinion, and making ethics codes public and transparent. Engagement by allowing the audience/community to be part of the reporting process through story ideas, sourcing, and commenting, resulting in higher impact journalism, in part because the community owns the stories.
  • Simplicity: In alignment with the revenue-first strategy and trust efforts, news organizations will focus on projects that allow them to own niche audiences and drive traffic and engagement with short-form, mobile-friendly content. We will see a stronger comeback of “retro” formats and distribution platforms that range from newsletters like The Skimm to mobile micro reports to video explainers, podcasts, bots, and bite-sized content that is easy to digest on your mobile device.

José Zamora is vice president of strategic communications for Univision News.

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