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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C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

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

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

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

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

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

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

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

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Juleyka Lantigua   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

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

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

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

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

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

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

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

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Paul Ford   Go global

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

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

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Richard Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

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

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

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

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Jake Levine   The return to now

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

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

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Burt Herman   Things get real

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first