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.

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Paul Ford   Go global

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Jake Levine   The return to now

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

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

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Dan Newman   A return to trust

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

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Burt Herman   Things get real

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

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

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

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

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

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

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

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

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

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

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

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

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

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

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

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

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

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities