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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Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

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Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jake Levine   The return to now

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

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Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

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Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

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Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

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Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

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

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

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

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Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

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Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

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Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

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L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

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Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

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

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

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

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Paul Ford   Go global

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

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

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

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

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

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An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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

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Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

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

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

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

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

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Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

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Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

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

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