External forces

“The only hope for a serious pushback against misinformation will come from progress in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. But it will take a while to come up with reliable models able to process at scale a firehose of news.”

Let’s start with distribution. Google will reinforce its position against Facebook. Publishers will continue to get more audience from Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) than from Facebook Instant Articles, confirming the recent shift. Aside from monetization issues, part of the reason is a growing distrust in Facebook, seen as less reliable than the search engine. Among publishers, the general feeling is that Facebook is more likely to change the rules without warning than Google. Facebook has sent multiple wrong signals over the last two years, from increasing the weight of friends-and-family content at the expense of news in 2016 to an ill-advised series of tests of profound changes to the News Feed. In October 2017, FB removed publisher content from its News Feed to evaluate the impact on users’ engagement; it did so in five countries (Serbia, Guatemala, Slovakia, Bolivia, and Cambodia). These felt they were, understandably, considered lab rats by the spoiled geeks in Menlo Park. We can expect more mishaps of that kind in 2018 as Facebook seems unable to address its endemic immaturity. 

Apple News could, in theory, gain traction, with its neat layout that is more respectful of news brand and authors. But the trend might not last if Apple News continue to carry terrible ads. Eddy Cue should be reminded that the company’s revenue per customer dwarfs any media ARPU and that Apple can afford to offer a much better experience than anyone else.

News distributors should also keep an eye on the evolution of aggregators. Since last summer, I’ve collected my news mostly with Laserlike, a startup created by a group of Google alumni who wants to reinvent search for news. As for Feedly, it upgrades its service continually. Also on my watch list: the China giant Toutiao, which carries a staggering engagement time of 74 minutes per day (50 percent more than Facebook and 3.5× time spent on Snapchat), thanks to its AI engine. Toutiao, leaning on its $11 billion valuation, wants to move aggressively into the West. I’ll also keep an eye on messaging apps: They tend to overtake social engagement, and therefore could become an essential vector for news. But, as history repeats itself, expect difficulties with monetization.

Digital advertising for news is dying. Only 18 months ago, outlets like BuzzFeed or Vice News were considered models for great ad strategies. Now they’re laying people off. When it comes to BuzzFeed, my take is their costly, high-quality news division is poised for a significant shift, a spinoff being the best case scenario. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Google are sucking up everybody’s advertising oxygen. Last year, according to GroupM, the world largest media buyer, the duopoly captured 84 percent of all digital investment (excluding China), but also 186 percent of the growth. That means everyone else is losing.

It’s time for publishers to rethink their ad model with fewer but better-sold ads. Users get increasingly sick with invasive ads and can’t stand Outbrain/Taboola/Revcontent’s mediocrity: It ruins the reader’s experience and damages the credibility of the brand, while on the business side, they create a massive user data-leak. My take is high-end publishers will move away from these models. That means that paid-for products will gain traction, paywalls will tighten further, and new transactional systems could emerge, lowering the mental cost of a subscription. 

On the fake news front, over the past 18 months, we saw at least seven electoral processes disrupted by information-related manipulations: the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Kenya, India, and most likely the referendum in Spain. Every democratic process will somehow be affected by waves of misinformation, originating either from ideological groups or state-sponsored players. Platforms will continue their effort to contain the pandemic. However, smart fake news providers will always find a way to cheat Google’s algorithms (unless it goes for a massive blacklisting, which it can’t). As for Facebook, I will believe in its commitment to fight fake news and misinformation when Mark Zuckerberg announces that he will consent to a significant impact on the company’s revenues in order to combat false information. No worries, it won’t happen.

The only hope for a serious pushback against misinformation will come from progress in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. But it will take a while to come up with reliable models able to process at scale a firehose of news.

2018 will see a severe regulatory pushback against platforms, essentially initiated from Europe. It will be on three fronts: taxes, privacy, and abuse of dominant position. Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner for competition, will focus on Google, her target of choice. Due to her propensity to wage rearguard battles, she will ignore predatory practices of Amazon and Facebook’s constant assault on privacy. But she rides a powerful ideological wave. For the Big Four, the only way to prevent that would be a move toward paying their fair share of taxes. With smart PR, they could appear as the good guys. But, again, it won’t happen. Silicon Valley is the ultimate cognitive bubble, remember.

Frederic Filloux is editor of the Monday Note and leader of the News Quality Scoring Project.

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Jake Levine   The return to now

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

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

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Paul Ford   Go global

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

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

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

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

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

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

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

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

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

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

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Burt Herman   Things get real

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

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

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

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

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Richard Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

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

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Juleyka Lantigua   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

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

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

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

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism