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The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

“Hunting for a valid, data-tested reason to drop a promising idea reserves their team’s time for work that makes money and keeps great journalism alive.”

When the literary critic Edmund Wilson became overwhelmed with correspondence from strangers to the point where he could no longer effectively complete his own work, he wrote out a list of tasks — reading manuscripts, giving interviews, autographing books for people — that he would no longer do. When someone requested his time, Wilson sent them his list of “impossible” tasks.

He learned to say “no.”

We see 2019 as the year newsrooms and journalists embrace their inner Wilsons and fall in love with one of the most empowering (and difficult) sentences: “No.”

It’s hard to say, particularly for people interested in experimentation, collaboration and (maybe especially) serving their audiences. But no saves time, money and jobs.

And there are a range of ways to say it. (If you need examples, 18F created this handy list.) Sometimes you need a scorched earth, Edmund Wilson no.

And sometimes you need what we think of as the rabbinic no when people want to convert to Judaism, the no that longs to become a “yes.”

We’ve spent much of this year interviewing journalists about how their newsrooms use (or misuse) data and analytics. When we think about the rabbinic “no,” we think about something Tom Betts, the chief data officer at the Financial Times, told us about failure:

We have done a lot of experiments around our subscription access model. Could you make a light or cut-price subscription with reduced access? Could you make cheaper product where you reduce the amount of articles or sell one category of our content? Many people over many years have had hunches around the value of micropayments. [Through] our ability to test those concepts as wireframes in real life with multivariate testing and real customers — not as a panel in a research environment — we’ve been able to disprove that many of those product ideas are valuable. That prevented us from building them in the first place and all the subscription fulfillment that goes with that, and launching them, which at best has yielded no revenue upside and detracted from our products and subscriptions.

The more we can put so-called smoke tests in front of customers to feel out new areas of our strategy or approach without having to write code first, the better and more informed decisions we’ve been able to make.

Betts and his team are actively hunting for their “no,” a good reason to reject a popular idea, as fast as they possibly can.

It’s not because they don’t want to experiment: Remember that the metered paywall that Financial Times build in 2007 created an unprecedented way to study how users behave right before they subscribe. Tracking user data let news organizations focus on the most promising potential subscribers, and became a model for other media companies (notably The New York Times).

Obviously, when FT’s team looks for easy “nos,” they’re not opposed to new ideas. But hunting for a valid, data-tested reason to drop a promising idea reserves their team’s time for work that makes money and keeps great journalism alive.

We can’t have it all and do everything and be everywhere. Continually pivoting costs journalism jobs and drives journalists out of the industry. Saying no is a discipline and practice that allows both journalists to focus on their priorities without overcommitting time or energy to the wrong platforms, strategies or relationships.

And on a personal level, saying no helps us focus and set boundaries, which are becoming increasingly blurry and exacerbate burnout and stress. Saying no makes every yes sweeter.

Welcome to 2019. We humbly nominate not the word, but the sentence of the year: No.

Betsy O’Donovan is an assistant professor of Journalism at Western Washington University. Melody Kramer is the Senior Audience Development Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. They co-founded the media consultancy Hedgehog and Fox.

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