Publishing less to give readers more

“When something happens, we write a story. When something else happens, we write a new story. News event? New story! New developments? New story! New responses? New story!”

As journalists, we make an implicit promise to inform our readers as best we can.

When we started out a few centuries ago, the way to do that was to print daily news articles on paper.

Not much has changed since. Sure, today we work online and use more pictures and video, but we’re still doing what we’ve always done: informing the public by publishing fresh articles every day. When something happens, we write a story. When something else happens, we write a new story.

News event? New story!

New developments? New story!

New responses? New story!

Until recently, one revenue model perfectly suited this cycle:

Fresh articles → More eyeballs → More ad dollars

But the ad-based earnings model is in trouble.

Instead, journalism is increasingly looking to reader revenue. The new model works as follows:

Informative publication → Reader satisfaction → Reader revenue

So it’s time to ask a rhetorical question.

Does the age-old practice of informing readers through a flood of successive news reports still make sense?

The answer, of course, is: No, not really.

Nowadays, when readers want to find specific information or learn about a topic in depth, they have to plow through loads of old articles and videos.

Then they have to take the latest story as the last word.

Why? Because:

  • We publish stories one after the other, rarely connecting the dots.
  • We don’t tailor content to individual readers’ needs.
  • We do almost nothing to help people sift relevant information from archives. (Here, have an auto-generated tag page!)

Basically, we peddle today’s news while failing to put at readers’ disposal everything else that’s ever happened and been reported on. That means we aren’t informing the public as effectively as we could. So readers lose the thread of what’s happening, or grow cynical about a world that’s presented as a succession of unrelated incidents.

Either way, people stop paying, since we’re not delivering the promised service.

Early attempts to inform readers in smarter ways — Vox Cards, the old Circa app — often failed because they relied on ads and traffic.

But there have been successes. The queen of paywall revenue, The New York Times, has over 2 million digital-only subscribers. The Gray Lady employs its Beta team to find the best ways of using new storytelling forms to inform readers so they’ll stay happy subscribers. And it’s working.

So far, most thriving Beta projects focus on service content. For instance, the NYT Cooking app lets users browse, search and save the paper’s thousands of recipes. And its Wirecutter site shares consumer testing results in a highly usable, efficient format.

But the approach can work for hard news stories too. And in 2018, we’ll start to see how. Journalists will be doing more updating, personalizing, and improving of access to content — and we’ll be publishing less.

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

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Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

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

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Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

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Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

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Paul Ford   Go global

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Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

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Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

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Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

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

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

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

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

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

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

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Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

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

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

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Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

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Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

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Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

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Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

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Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Jake Levine   The return to now

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Burt Herman   Things get real

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

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

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

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Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

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