R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

“It sounds better to say you’re ‘shifting resources into short-form video’ than that you desperately need to reduce your run rate.”

In 2017, if you couldn’t find an audience or revenue model, for any of a myriad of reasons, there was apparently only one thing to do: pivot to video!

And while that’s become a media punchline, it’s not hard to see why the publishers who took that approach did. As the content boom finally seemed to go bust (see: Mashable, Mic, and Vice) and platforms proved themselves increasingly unreliable (read: terrible) partners, focusing on video was a Hail Mary attempt to ease economic and investor pressure by pandering to ad buyer preferences. It sounds better to say you’re “shifting resources into short-form video” than that you desperately need to reduce your run rate.

But it has already proven extremely shortsighted. There is no evidence consumers want more video, and video production is expensive, logistically difficult, and hard to scale (read Heidi Moore’s excellent CJR piece for more on this). There are early signs that even ad buyers are realizing video isn’t some panacea, and will redistribute some of their budgets accordingly in the coming year. And perhaps most importantly, such pivots seemed universally to come at the expense of good journalists and editors, still the beating heart of newsrooms and who didn’t deserve to be “strategically” discarded. It’s time to officially declare this particular approach dead and admit it’s not, in fact, a strategy or solution.

I’m not suggesting video isn’t an essential part of any content mix in 2018. It is, and as someone who spent many years working in TV and video, I know that some stories are better told visually. But video storytelling is an actual skill, developed over years of working in the medium, not something you pick up through osmosis by getting stoned in college and watching YouTube videos. It’s insulting to the people who do it well to assume that it’s a shortcut to success.

That’s why publishers who made the pivot are now pivoting away again, looking for the next thing that may “save” them. But that’s an endless cycle of restrategizing and layoffs. There is no easy answer, no one thing that’s going to magically make audiences find and connect to your work. The secret to success in journalism isn’t a secret at all: Make very good things that people actually want to read and watch. That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything.

Susie Banikarim is editorial director of the Gizmodo Media Group.

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

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

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

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Richard Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Burt Herman   Things get real

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

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

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

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

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

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

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

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

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

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

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

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

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

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Juleyka Lantigua   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

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

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

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

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Paul Ford   Go global

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

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

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

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

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Jake Levine   The return to now