The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

“If 2017 reached peak innovation strategizing, pivoting, and iterating, then 2018 may very well be the year of pause, pare back, and hyper-focus.”

My prediction is that 2018 will be the year of quiet adjustments.

Sound uninspiring…or, actually, manageable and focused? Worrisomely workaday…or maybe a strategy for planning ahead for a news ecosystem in which continual change is business as usual?

If 2016 was sobering — a double-digit drop in print ad revenues, peak anti-platform sentiment, the migration of the large majority of digital ad revenue to Google and Facebook, among other disruptions — then 2017 was arguably chastening. The pivot to video peaked and crashed. VC-fueled digital pure-players lost their luster, missing revenue targets, and following up with layoffs (BuzzFeed, Mashable). The year of Trump, Brexit, and growing populism all across Europe has — this is a reductive shortcut, but all those were driving external factors — forced a turning point on the platforms, which have started evolving, grudgingly, into institutions with social accountability, even as more people that ever before are consuming their news on platforms. The fake news phenomenon has transformed the very identity of news media and their role as trustworthy gatekeepers that had been taken for granted. Those are just a few of this past year’s disruptions.

But because of (or despite) all that, the past few years in the news media ecosystem have also been a flurry of often radical innovation in newsrooms. Powered by results-driven methodologies, full of experiments and outcomes and metrics, it has been transformative. But it has also been exhausting and, for some newsrooms, exhaustive. They may be reaching the natural end of an intense cycle of constant testing-and-learning, even as newsroom restructuring continues. The New York Times just announced its second reorganization in as many years of their audience team, The Washington Post this past summer announced a series of new digital strategy and editorial innovation roles, and here at the Financial Times, we are creating a new newsroom team, led by my colleague Robin Kwong, head of digital delivery, that is defining new digital strategy roles. If this is the start of a new cycle of innovation, what comes next?

It may be that 2018 will be…chill.

I’m kidding. But not entirely. If 2017 reached peak innovation strategizing, pivoting, and iterating, then 2018 may very well be the year of pause, pare back, and hyper-focus. It is a year that could look something like this in newsrooms:

Let’s get really good at the engagement strategies that we now know work.

Let’s try to talk about innovation (always? Only ever?) coupled with sustainability: This thing that we wan to try — what is the lasting change it could bring about? For whom? And what is its value to that audience?

Let’s reassure audiences and not wow them or blow them away — or let’s make the former the priority and the latter the really-nice-to-have. It’s not the end of delight, but let’s focus on sustainable satisfaction.

Let’s prove our value to audiences in everything we do. In other words, let’s make everything we do something worth paying for.

Let’s give away less journalism for free (fewer clicks on Google, less free stuff on social), but let’s offer more ways to pay for it — not just onsite, but offsite — and with a greater variety of products. Maybe not all audiences should be paying the same amount for the same product, or be offered the same products. Let’s anticipate their willingness to pay and offer personalized pricing to go with personalized content.

Let’s change the subject from fake news and trust, and let’s start talking instead about strategies to anticipate our audience’s needs, using AI to understand their habits and preferences even better than they themselves consciously do. Let’s help them understand what they find most useful in what we offer and develop more efficient ways to help them find it.

Let’s ask audiences to tell us what they think, and let’s remember to let them know that we actually listened.

All of which quietly builds trust and loyalty, without asking for it. Quiet revolutions are sometimes the most radical.

Renée Kaplan is head of audience engagement at the Financial Times.

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

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

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

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

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

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Burt Herman   Things get real

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

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

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Jake Levine   The return to now

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

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

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

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

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

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

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

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

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

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

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

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

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

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

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

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

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions