Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

“The winners will be the ones who have built a meaningful journalistic report that transcends, and likely capitalizes on, the platform moment.”

I have a jacket emblazoned with the phrase, “Suffering from realness.” The quote, if you didn’t already know, is from rapper and noted footwear purveyor Kanye West. His prose likely had nothing at all to do with the state of journalism,1 but that’s exactly why I had it airbrushed. I, along with two other of my best journo friends, co-opted Kanye to make cryptically public the commitment to powering through the tumultuous publishing seas for something worthy.

@sclary @tiffany99 i hope to god you brought your damn jackets // cc @juliabeizer

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Pivoting to video, forsaking O&O for distributed, hiring growth hackers, pursuing OTT, new ad products, subscriptions, live, visual — you name it. None of these things are inherently bad — all mere tactics in our transition. And yet they are villainized, by, well, us. 2018 will be no exception. However, here’s betting that it will also be a moment when the tide turns in favor of thinking about impact — realness — in a new way. The winners will be the ones who have built a meaningful journalistic report that transcends, and likely capitalizes on, the platform moment.

Out of the darkest moments come some of the best. Take the Weinstein effect and the speed at which those stories traveled. The entire #metoo network effect is impact at a pace and scale previously unimaginable. Yes, our business model is far from settled. But do not think for a moment that this sea change would be possible without platforms that reach 2 billion people. Sure, it comes with a high cost to businesses that once reaped a 60 percent margin. But the impact potential is even greater.

If you are existentially vexed about all of this, the question to ask yourself as it is all happening around you: Are you pivoting to impact? This might sound trite, but I mean it sincerely. Below, a starter “pivot to impact” moral compass!

If you are a journalist: Have you recently revealed something to your audience that they likely didn’t know before that helps them understand the context of our changing world? Important bonus: Did you try to make it reach as many people as possible?

If you work in product: Did you build something that people want, that possibly helps enable the above? (h/t @MarcusMoretti)

If you work on revenue: Are you focusing on how your publication can uniquely serve users or advertisers?

If you are a platform: Have you worked with a publishing partner either on helping to monetize their existing body of work or offered to pay them for their expert services? Have you worked to battle fake news?  

In all seriousness, I am a believer in where we are headed and the good work that’s being done along the way. That’s not to dismiss the challenges and tough calls required to get there. I’ll leave you with a line I often recite to myself and to my teams: If you focus on the story and focus on the user, you will not lose. I am betting on 2018 to value this anew.

Cory Haik is publisher of Mic.

  1. Honestly I should have reached out for comment, but I feel extremely confident in my stated take that these three words together are entirely unrelated to the journalism industry. []

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