Wallets get opened

“It seems my generation — often seen as embodying the worst of the information age — could well be at the forefront of making this much-needed correction in the media industry.”

Since the first days of the internet, consumers have generally taken for granted that content is free (the creator of the popup ad even regrets that his otherwise irritating brainchild contributed to this expectation). Now, as the ad-focused revenue model founders, people start to rethink the importance of journalism in a dark political climate, and information-overloaded consumers increasingly seek quality control, publishers are taking a cue from the likes of Netflix and Hulu and betting that customers will be willing to pay either for specialized content or for curation.

In part, we have President Donald Trump to thank for this shift. The more Trump relentlessly attacks the media, the more Americans are reminded that they can’t take a thriving free press for granted. Famously, The New York Times, repeatedly disparaged by the commander-in-chief as “failing,” has reported record subscriptions since Trump took office. Moreover, consumers are acutely aware that despite real failures on the media’s part in recent years, it’s journalism that uncovered the biggest scandals of the day, from the Billy Bush tape to Tom Price’s private jet usage to the child molestation allegations that changed the course of a Senate race just a few days ago. That public service, readers seem to have concluded, is worth paying for.

But it’s not just mainstream political journalism that’s benefiting from this shift, and it’s certainly not just a reaction to the president. A longer-term desire for experts to help filter through the noise has been apparent for years. Politico discovered that with its Pro verticals more than half a decade ago. Today, niche outlets covering everything from national security to chemistry to college sports are finding that users are eager to access specialized content — especially if it’s for less than the price of their Netflix subscription. Services like Scroll are experimenting with offering a curated (and ad-free) bundle of stories for a monthly fee. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the phenomenon, highlighting the case of Bill Bishop, who generated $100,000 in a single day when he moved to monetize his well-read newsletter on China. My own publication, War on the Rocks, has a successful membership program for national security professionals that gives them access to a members-only podcast on international affairs and a forum where they can engage in private with others in their field.

In 2018, I predict we’ll see more users paying both for mainstream journalism and for specialized content. This material will get more specific and granular as publications think through the technical challenges and opportunities — for instance, perhaps outlets will soon allow readers to pay specifically for their favorite columnists. Or publications might double down on the promise of email newsletters, another potential source of subscription revenue, by finding ways to improve automatically curated newsletters, making them a more desirable and lucrative product without the labor-intensiveness.

It’s heartening that millennials, in particular, are a crucial part of the paying-for-news trend. It seems my generation — often seen as embodying the worst of the information age — could well be at the forefront of making this much-needed correction in the media industry.

Usha Sahay is managing editor of War on the Rocks.

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

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

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Burt Herman   Things get real

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

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

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Jake Levine   The return to now

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

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

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

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

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

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

Dan Newman   A return to trust

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

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

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

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

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

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

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

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

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

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

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

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

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

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

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

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

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

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

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

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

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

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

Paul Ford   Go global

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back