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.

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

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

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

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

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

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

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

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

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

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

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

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

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

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

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

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

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Paul Ford   Go global

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

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

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Jake Levine   The return to now

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

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

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

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

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Burt Herman   Things get real

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

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

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

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

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

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

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

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

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level