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.

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Burt Herman   Things get real

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

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

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

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

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

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

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

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

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

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

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

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

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

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

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

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

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

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Paul Ford   Go global

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

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

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

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

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

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

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

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

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

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

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Jake Levine   The return to now

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

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

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

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

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off