The only pivot that might work

“It’s easy to blame the platform monopolies for publishers’ quandaries, but it’s time to also acknowledge that there are simply too many of us in the digital news space.”

Let’s face it: Digital news publishers have little reason to feel optimistic heading into 2018. There’s no shortage of ominous headlines or hot takes from the pundits and media prognosticators who, despite the fact that digital advertising will surpass $90 billion in the U.S. in the coming year, are predicting more pain for publishers.

Only 15 years ago, before the hyper-migration to digital began and a wave of consolidation swept across the print media space, U.S.-based newspapers raked in $67 billion in advertising. As many traditional publishers and newsrooms began to transform their businesses (and continue to do so today), meaningful digital advertising growth proved elusive to most, simultaneously contending with both the fickle demands of the marketplace and having to support an inordinate number of online publishers, platforms, and adtech companies.

Then came along a slew of “digital natives,” backed largely by venture capitalists, and the promise to invent a new publishing model. They stood up modern websites, relied on the social web for content distribution, and chased audiences and advertising businesses that could flourish, free from the shackles of a legacy business. Or so they thought. In reality, what many of these startups succeeded in doing was to launch new media properties, in an already over-crowded space, and produce content the world never needed. If companies like Mic, NowThis News, or even BuzzFeed never existed, would the state of news and journalism in this country look any different?

It’s easy to blame the platform monopolies for publishers’ quandaries, but it’s time to also acknowledge that there are simply too many of us in the digital news space. Digital ad spending continues to soar, but the lion’s share remains hijacked by a handful of companies, and exceedingly, gets vacuumed into the programmatic abyss. But if there’s one silver lining, it’s this: For too long, an excessive number of VC-backed publishers and adtech companies have been able to survive by siphoning off the digital advertising hose. Those days are winding down, however, and 2018 will be a year of reckoning for many. We are already seeing it via reports of missed revenue forecasts, shrinking company valuations, big M&A activity, and of course, pivots!

In today’s digital news economy, either you are a buyer or a seller. It’s time to decide which you are, and act accordingly; getting caught somewhere in between means being dealt a knockout blow, and the VCs won’t pull you off the ropes. 2018 will be all about pivoting towards consolidation, and creating strength-in-numbers alliances. That’s likely a good thing, as it should open up wider lanes for many heritage-based news publishers to maneuver. Those who can look past the headlines and sprint towards the opportunities.

Michael Kuntz is president of advertising sales and brand partnerships for the USA Today Network.

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Paul Ford   Go global

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

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

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Burt Herman   Things get real

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

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

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

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

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

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

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Jake Levine   The return to now

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

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

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

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

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

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

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

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

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Juleyka Lantigua   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

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

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

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

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Richard Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

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

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

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