Pure reach has reached its limit

“In this coming year, publishers may no longer be able to afford to consider reach without return.”

2017 will be the year when the search for absolute growth will end. And the search for intelligent growth will become smarter and more nuanced.

renee-kaplanAll news media want bigger audiences, greater impact, more readers. Impact is built into the very identity of journalism, into its purpose and function, and growth is built into the basic functionality of any sustainable business model. But not growth at any cost. And not growth for the sake of growth anymore.

2016 will have been the year in which many publishers — even as they were trying to move away from traffic metrics like pageviews and visits and rethink their goals with other kinds of metrics of quality and engagement — also found themselves caught up in a powerful swirl of growth and reach initiatives: Facebook Live and Instant Articles, Google AMP, social video, experiments with new platforms like chat apps and new technologies like bots, new distribution partnerships, new social sharing partnerships, just to cite a few. Many news media tried many things, some media tried it all, every media has been trying to reach new audiences.

But a lot happened in the news and in the news industry in 2016. Brexit. A double-digit drop in print advertising revenues in many markets. A massive concentration of digital advertising revenue in just two platforms — Google and Facebook — that are not news media (in the U.S., 85 cents of every new dollar spent on digital went to the two companies in the first quarter of 2016). Trump. Post-Trump. Post-fact. Fake news.

In 2016, the news media ecosystem became a place with less ad revenue, shared by fewer players, across increasingly unregulated channels of distribution, with growing competition for clicks and attention, in increasingly unpredictable news feeds and search result rankings, over which publishers exercise diminishing control. When views, likes, reach, and even clicks bring in neither many engaged readers nor much revenue, then pure reach has reached its limit.

So in 2017, we’ll be refining our reach and focusing our growth initiatives. Protecting our brands and targeting audiences more deliberately and narrowly. We’ll be competing less for attention, and more for loyalty, and understanding that the clicks and likes of one, probably don’t have the same value as the time spent, the shares and the recirculation of the other.

It will be the year in which publishers may reconsider the existential reasons for certain strategies that had been considered indispensable for reaching new audiences — like Twitter and Facebook: What exactly are we trying to get out of these social platforms? Are they really helping news media reach audiences who are actually likely to get value and utility out of our content — in ways that we can understand and measure? And monetize?

In this coming year, publishers may no longer be able to afford to consider reach without return. In the newsroom, we’ll be developing more intelligent and focused initiatives to grow the specific audiences that are actually likely to become loyal. And we’ll be using a plethora of new technologies and data-driven tools being developed right now to help newsrooms become ever more targeted and refined in reaching and growing our audiences. Predictive analytics dashboards integrating off-site trends and on-site user behavior, to understand exactly what rising topics are relevant for the newsroom to publish and promote. Tools to do real-time competitor benchmarking for topics and distribution tactics, to use the collective intelligence of other publishers and their readers to better reach our own targeted audiences. Artificial intelligence to create optimized personalization algorithms and truly effective bots.

In 2017, we will be using specific insights to reach specific audiences: loyal ones, who engage with the content often, and at length, who consume a lot of it, often share it, increasingly comment on it and eventually, for most publishers — indeed for more and more of us — pay for it.

Renée Kaplan is head of audience engagement at the Financial Times.

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Richard Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Trushar Barot   API or die

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism