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.

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

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

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

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

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

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

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

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

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

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

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Juleyka Lantigua   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

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

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

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

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

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

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

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

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

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

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

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Jake Levine   The return to now

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

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

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

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Richard Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Paul Ford   Go global

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Burt Herman   Things get real

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts