The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

“If 2017 reached peak innovation strategizing, pivoting, and iterating, then 2018 may very well be the year of pause, pare back, and hyper-focus.”

My prediction is that 2018 will be the year of quiet adjustments.

Sound uninspiring…or, actually, manageable and focused? Worrisomely workaday…or maybe a strategy for planning ahead for a news ecosystem in which continual change is business as usual?

If 2016 was sobering — a double-digit drop in print ad revenues, peak anti-platform sentiment, the migration of the large majority of digital ad revenue to Google and Facebook, among other disruptions — then 2017 was arguably chastening. The pivot to video peaked and crashed. VC-fueled digital pure-players lost their luster, missing revenue targets, and following up with layoffs (BuzzFeed, Mashable). The year of Trump, Brexit, and growing populism all across Europe has — this is a reductive shortcut, but all those were driving external factors — forced a turning point on the platforms, which have started evolving, grudgingly, into institutions with social accountability, even as more people that ever before are consuming their news on platforms. The fake news phenomenon has transformed the very identity of news media and their role as trustworthy gatekeepers that had been taken for granted. Those are just a few of this past year’s disruptions.

But because of (or despite) all that, the past few years in the news media ecosystem have also been a flurry of often radical innovation in newsrooms. Powered by results-driven methodologies, full of experiments and outcomes and metrics, it has been transformative. But it has also been exhausting and, for some newsrooms, exhaustive. They may be reaching the natural end of an intense cycle of constant testing-and-learning, even as newsroom restructuring continues. The New York Times just announced its second reorganization in as many years of their audience team, The Washington Post this past summer announced a series of new digital strategy and editorial innovation roles, and here at the Financial Times, we are creating a new newsroom team, led by my colleague Robin Kwong, head of digital delivery, that is defining new digital strategy roles. If this is the start of a new cycle of innovation, what comes next?

It may be that 2018 will be…chill.

I’m kidding. But not entirely. If 2017 reached peak innovation strategizing, pivoting, and iterating, then 2018 may very well be the year of pause, pare back, and hyper-focus. It is a year that could look something like this in newsrooms:

Let’s get really good at the engagement strategies that we now know work.

Let’s try to talk about innovation (always? Only ever?) coupled with sustainability: This thing that we wan to try — what is the lasting change it could bring about? For whom? And what is its value to that audience?

Let’s reassure audiences and not wow them or blow them away — or let’s make the former the priority and the latter the really-nice-to-have. It’s not the end of delight, but let’s focus on sustainable satisfaction.

Let’s prove our value to audiences in everything we do. In other words, let’s make everything we do something worth paying for.

Let’s give away less journalism for free (fewer clicks on Google, less free stuff on social), but let’s offer more ways to pay for it — not just onsite, but offsite — and with a greater variety of products. Maybe not all audiences should be paying the same amount for the same product, or be offered the same products. Let’s anticipate their willingness to pay and offer personalized pricing to go with personalized content.

Let’s change the subject from fake news and trust, and let’s start talking instead about strategies to anticipate our audience’s needs, using AI to understand their habits and preferences even better than they themselves consciously do. Let’s help them understand what they find most useful in what we offer and develop more efficient ways to help them find it.

Let’s ask audiences to tell us what they think, and let’s remember to let them know that we actually listened.

All of which quietly builds trust and loyalty, without asking for it. Quiet revolutions are sometimes the most radical.

Renée Kaplan is head of audience engagement at the Financial Times.

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Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

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

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Dan Newman   A return to trust

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

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

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

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

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Burt Herman   Things get real

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

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

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Jake Levine   The return to now

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

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

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

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

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

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

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

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

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

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

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

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

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

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

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

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble