2
0
1
9

The year product leads media

“We will start to see more senior leadership in news organizations that comes from design, product, and technology backgrounds.”

In 2018, we’ve seen the acceleration of trends in which older, advertising-centric, scale-driven media models are becoming less and less sustainable, while user-centered, product-focused approaches gain traction. Looking forward, 2019 may well be the year when product-led media moves from the fringes to achieve true significance and maturity.

In recent years, we’ve seen dependence on massive scale become less feasible for many media organizations, especially as platforms like Facebook have deprioritized news items in their algorithms. In turn, advertising models that largely depend on that scale are becoming similarly implausible. These two trends are most starkly depicted in Verizon’s explanation for its abysmal valuation of its Oath media properties.

In parallel, there has been positive growth and engagement in areas that take a more product oriented approach to news, focusing on user needs in a more narrow and thoughtful way. We see this in the rise of products that develop a deeper relationship between journalists and audiences around niche topics, like podcasts and newsletters, as well as in service-oriented media products that support user needs around particular areas of their lives, like cooking or wellness. These initiatives provide better paths to success in two ways. First, they focus on cultivating specific audiences that can then be sold to advertisers while respecting the privacy and data rights of those readers. Second, strong relationships between publishers and readers can lead to natural subscription or membership models based on both product value and an affinity to a brand.

This shift has been challenging for many media companies because they tend to be led by people with backgrounds in editorial and advertising — practices that are inherently reactive, opportunistic, and ephemeral. Those skills make for good, fast reporting and effective sales pitches, but often do not provide a long-term view of how a product will evolve and grow, improving over time. Successful product development requires a proactive, holistic, and considered process with deep systems thinking. One small change to a product experience can have wide ranging knock-on effects that users have to live with — you can’t simply issue a “correction” for your app and move on.

In 2019 and beyond, it’s likely that we will start to see more senior leadership in news organizations that comes from design, product, and technology backgrounds, to provide the kind of partnership with editorial that will allow for compelling user experiences and media products that can thrive in the years to come. Those that succeed will see their readers as their primary customer base, and not their advertisers.

Alexis Lloyd is the head of design innovation at Automattic. Matt Boggie is CTO at The Skimm.

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

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

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

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

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

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

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

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

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

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

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

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

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

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

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

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

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

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

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

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

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

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

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

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

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

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

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

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

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

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

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

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

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

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

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

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

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

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

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

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

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

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

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

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

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

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

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

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

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

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

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

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

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

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

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

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

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

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

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

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

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

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

Hearken   Pivot to people

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

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

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

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

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

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

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

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

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

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

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

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

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

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

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

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