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Our future could lie within our own organizations

“As more and more publishers shift toward subscription and membership, the word “revenue” is making its way — and will increasingly be welcomed — into morning news conferences and planning meetings.”

We are allegedly far beyond the era of the absolute Chinese wall between editorial and business, that time when it was unheard of for the newsroom to speak of collaborations with what was generically known as “the business side” (or “commercial” for the British media). There was a firm barrier between the money and the output — rightfully protecting the journalism from any external commercial pressures. But it was also part of the culture and even a point of pride. Us and them. That cultural barrier has actually persisted in many news organizations. Often journalists can’t actually identify colleagues in marketing, advertising, business development, strategy, analytics, customer service, or even product, or have much sense of what they actually do. (Communications is different — those people can get you exposure!)

But next year, I predict, this cultural difference will really (finally) start to abate. Protection of the autonomy and impartiality of news has never been more central, and it is more than ever a foundation of quality journalism in all of our newsrooms. But what is dissolving — and will continue to dissolve at an accelerating pace next year — is the impermeable border between the seemingly foreign regions of a news organization.

As more and more publishers shift toward subscription and membership, the word “revenue” is making its way — and will increasingly be welcomed — into morning news conferences and planning meetings.

Journalists — traditional reporters and editors, not just the hybrids working in the “growth,” “digital,” and “engagement” spaces — are beginning to get acquainted with the concept of product development and what a product manager does, learning how to develop concepts collaboratively and with defined outcomes in mind (great journalism andrevenue). Journalists are beginning to actively seek out audience insights from data analysts and customer research people that can help them get better at doing the thing they always thought they were doing: targeting readers interested in their journalism. (Andwho might also pay for it.)

Editors and reporters are getting acquainted with marketing strategies and the powers of alignment, and coming awake to the merits of all these other levers of impact and engagement that they never knew they could access (through that colleague they always see in the elevator but never knew what she did). Now they know these colleagues can help them reach the readers most likely to get value out of their work. (Andhelp monetize it.)

There is already a growing exchange between editorial and all the other parts of the organization. Fruitful and respectful collaborations that start with the realization that we all share the same objectives — or, at least, are able to agree to shared objectives that we can define together. It’s no coincidence that just as newsrooms are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of protecting high-quality, trustworthy journalism, so they are becoming open to new conversations about its viability — and the role that editorial can play in building that. And reaching out to experts in their own organizations who can help them.

We talk a lot about trust in news, and less about our own trust in our own news organizations. I predict — and I certainly hope — that 2019 will be the year when trust and collaboration within and across our own organizations becomes the obvious way forward.

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

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