Things get real

“We need to use the convening power of media to build network effects, where products get better the more people that use them.”

2016 was a journalism nightmare, with the missed story on the U.S. election and rampant misinformation. 2017 was a rebuilding year, with brave reporting on sexual harassment showing journalism’s impact, and healthy subscription growth at top organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Next year, 2018, is when things gets real. Despite the promising momentum, this easily can go sideways. This is the year that we need to solidify business models and make real steps to improve news product. No pressure or anything — it’s just the fate of our democracy on the line.

Ads haven’t been cutting it for a while, and we know a major part of the business model answer is getting the people who use our product to pay for it. This isn’t the time to be timid in closing the sale. Subscriptions and memberships are gaining traction, and 2018 needs to be a year with more business model experimentation.

One of the more interesting attempts will be around cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. This isn’t about the hype around Bitcoin’s soaring value, but building new currencies around trust and authenticity using an open, transparent platform. Civil is one such experiment set to launch early in 2018 that will be closely watched.

On the product side, we’ve refined the basic story forms and are getting the hang of podcasts and newsletters. Now this needs to get truly interactive. One of the hottest new media products is HQ, the interactive trivia show mobile app. How can journalism apply the lessons from that format to create exciting live experiences, and give tangible benefits to users for knowing the facts?

We need to use the convening power of media to build network effects, where products get better the more people that use them. Galley, an app in private beta that’s like a Slack team for media geeks launched by Josh Young, has begun testing whether closed, niche networks can build more constructive interactions than the dreaded comment box. Such experiments will expand next year to other niches and formats.

We need to think smartly about how to leverage algorithms and machine learning, and see how they can help source stories and present them. One interesting experiment is Vigilant (which we’re funding at the Lenfest Institute), making public data more accessible and understandable. Their local pilot in Philadelphia is just getting started and they will be expanding trials early in the new year.

Journalists will also be working more smartly. The Washington Post’s Arc platform will be much more widely adopted in the new year. Some of Arc’s most interesting features provide internal metrics that track how journalists are meeting deadlines and whether they are publishing the right stories when audiences want to read them. Media organizations will also working yet more collaboratively. Platforms like Heather Bryant’s Project Facet, launching soon in beta (and another Lenfest grantee), will test whether better tools foster more collaborative storytelling projects.

2018: We can do this.

Burt Herman is director of innovation projects at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

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

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

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

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

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

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

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

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Burt Herman   Things get real

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

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

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

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

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Jake Levine   The return to now

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

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

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

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

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

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

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

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

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

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

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Mariano Blejman   News games rule