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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Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

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

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

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

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

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

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

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

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

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

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

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

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

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

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Jake Levine   The return to now

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

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

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

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

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

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

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Burt Herman   Things get real

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

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

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

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

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

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

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

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

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes