2
0
1
9

The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

“There will be tension between the need to satisfy the subscriber with the information she expects while still challenging her with the opposing views that she needs to make sense of the world.”

This pivot is real. In 2018 countless creators, ranging from market leaders like The New York Times and Fox News to individuals leveraging platforms like Patreon, developed products focused on providing more value to and earning direct revenue from readers.

The global media market is estimated to grow from $850 billion to $1 trillion over the next few years and market research expects user-based revenue such as subscriptions to be the largest part of that. This is good news. Publishers developing subscription strategies will be able to provide consistency to their balance sheets. That strength will make it easier for them to deliver on their journalistic missions.

As we embrace this pivot, we can’t forget that an ad-supported model did support multiple generations of objective journalists. In the ad world, reach was always the most critical business metric in all forms of news media. It is easy to take for granted how nicely that business metric dovetailed with the notion of a straightforward, objective, unbiased point-of-view. Katherine Graham famously steered a Washington Post that did not publish a presidential endorsement until 1976, so deep was the need to be impartial.

In a subscription world, meeting the daily expectations of each reader on a consistent basis becomes essential. That means delivering a product that is high quality, that delights and informs, and that performs as a consumer product.

Those expectations can sometimes create unintended consequences. We have all seen the “Cancel My Subscription” tweets from angry readers when publishers release pieces (particularly in opinion sections) that challenge their predominant political orientation. In this new world, there will be tension between the need to satisfy the subscriber with the information she expects while still challenging her with the opposing views that she needs to make sense of the world.

How will this end? I predict that the global news ecosystem will end up looking a lot more like Britain’s. In the U.K., newsstand sales have been the traditional revenue stream. That intense daily competition for revenue has historically forced publishers like The Telegraph and The Guardian to adopt a more consistent point of view to differentiate themselves from newsstand competitors.

The British paradigm deservedly has its critics (this is, after all, the business model that gave us “Page 3 Girls” and perfected the salacious headline), but in 2018 a Central London newsstand still has a far more diverse array of choices, both local and national, than one in Midtown Manhattan. If our digital news landscape looks like that in a few years, the pivot will have been worth it.

John Saroff is the CEO of Chartbeat.

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Hearken   Pivot to people

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news