The arrival of the impact producer

“As media consumers, we have access to more and better content that we can ever digest in many lifetimes; the problem journalism faces is how most effectively to inform, engage, target, and influence the right audiences with the right content.”

I predict that this will be the year when, for the first time, a journalism organization will fill the position of an impact producer.

The debate is still open about where journalism ends and advocacy begins, and it is important for journalists to keep an attentive eye on those lines. However, very few will now debate that journalism has a mission — it always has. Media is, at its best, at the forefront of halting the biggest abuses. At a minimum, it is capable of defining conversations and setting the agenda. Columbia University’s Anya Schiffrin in Global Muckraking articulates better than anyone that “journalists have been calling attention to some of the same problems for more than a hundred years.” Their writing has had significant impact and a wave of “committed and campaigning journalism” always existed in moments where a “general climate of intellectual ferment and political activism” called for it. This sounds like today!

Questions of impact are at the core of the role that journalism ought to be playing. Journalism matters, but the question we are posed with is: What journalism matters most? As media consumers, we have access to more and better content that we can ever digest in many lifetimes; the problem journalism faces is how most effectively to inform, engage, target, and influence the right audiences with the right content. Whether it is to inform citizens, or to affect perceptions about their reality, the media needs a transformational purpose. Parallel to the crises of media, but completely related, the media still needs to repurpose itself, a service, to produce news that can be used.

I would say all media organizations believe that they tell stories and provide information because they want to help their audience to make better choices, be aware of something, or change their social and political environments for the better. The question of impact becomes vital.

Impact, however each organization defines it, is achieved through journalism, but with the help of the audience, a community of interest, or civil society in general, this impact can be multiply exponentially: to achieve systematic change, media needs deep structural relationships with the community they serve, and take the media-driven effects to meaningful collective impact.

This will be the role of the impact producer, common already in the documentary space. Just as films have producers to manage the creative and financial process from script to screen, they also need impact producers to take the film campaign from production to impact.

An impact producer will be someone who will help the newsroom by helping define the ambition of the content produced, overseeing the education, outreach, and online community management, and playing the roles of evaluator and fundraiser.

Miguel Castro is senior officer for global media partnerships at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

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

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

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

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

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

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

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

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

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

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

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

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

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

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

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

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

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

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

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

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

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

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Jake Levine   The return to now

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Burt Herman   Things get real

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

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

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

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

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

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

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance