20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Saying no to more good ideas

“I’ve yet to meet a team in a news organization that suffers from a shortage of good ideas. But I have met teams that have clogged up their roadmaps with lots of good ideas that, cumulatively, have little impact.”

The last few years saw a much-needed focus on monetization and, as a result, the industry has seen several changes — particularly a shift away from chasing top-line user metrics and clicks and toward engagement and revenue, especially subscriptions and membership. Alongside this trend, many publishers have built great technology and product teams made of people drawn to their compelling missions.

But now’s the time for publishers to change tactics. Although driving revenue was critical, there has been only limited innovation around products, formats, and new ways of storytelling — especially when compared to other sectors such as finance and health which are seeing radical transformations.

Instead, many teams within news organizations have become obsessed with process and being agile — making methodology rather than outcomes their north star. But agile is not a strategy — it is a capability: a very valuable one with immediate operational benefits, but one that cannot permanently affect a publisher’s competitive position unless there’s a strategy behind it that helps the team take the right decisions at the right time.

Or else teams have got caught up in constant cycles of optimization (often around subscriber flows), which offers little more than diminishing returns. Organizations are not considering the opportunity costs of their work: Just because an initiative may improve a metric or the experience of a user doesn’t automatically mean it should be done. A good idea is not the same as a great opportunity.

I’ve yet to meet a team in a news organization that suffers from a shortage of good ideas. But I have met teams that have clogged up their roadmaps with lots of good ideas that, cumulatively, have little impact. Saying yes to every good idea, however small, means you’re not making time for the great opportunities.

But 2020 should be the year when newsrooms go back to basics and, rather than just focusing on process and optimization, instead prioritize industry-changing product innovation.

The first step of this will see publishers return to the key question: “How does your product grow?” It’s one of the most important questions to be able to answer. Growth is necessary for the very existence of most products and services, and it serves as evidence that you have a compelling proposition — especially if growth is driven by both new and loyal returning readers. Unfortunately, news organizations have tried very hard to distance themselves from growth as an objective over the past three years due to accusations of vanity metrics and clickbait. But growth is necessary for future success.

The best product strategies are about being different. It means deliberately choosing a path to deliver a hard-to-copy mix of value in your market. But much of today’s journalism — in terms of both content and format — feels very similar. Do publishers really understand how they deliver value? Many may say yes — but when did they last ask their readers, potential readers, or (perhaps even more critically) their lapsed readers?

As we enter 2020, publishers will begin to recognize that they need new need strategies, new propositions, and a deep understanding of how they add value for their different audiences in order to build the next phase of sustainable growth. This will require not just radical new strategic thinking, but also developing new levels of understanding of users and collaborative ways of working across the entire organization.

Tanya Cordrey is a product and technology consultant and former chief digital officer of Guardian News & Media.

The last few years saw a much-needed focus on monetization and, as a result, the industry has seen several changes — particularly a shift away from chasing top-line user metrics and clicks and toward engagement and revenue, especially subscriptions and membership. Alongside this trend, many publishers have built great technology and product teams made of people drawn to their compelling missions.

But now’s the time for publishers to change tactics. Although driving revenue was critical, there has been only limited innovation around products, formats, and new ways of storytelling — especially when compared to other sectors such as finance and health which are seeing radical transformations.

Instead, many teams within news organizations have become obsessed with process and being agile — making methodology rather than outcomes their north star. But agile is not a strategy — it is a capability: a very valuable one with immediate operational benefits, but one that cannot permanently affect a publisher’s competitive position unless there’s a strategy behind it that helps the team take the right decisions at the right time.

Or else teams have got caught up in constant cycles of optimization (often around subscriber flows), which offers little more than diminishing returns. Organizations are not considering the opportunity costs of their work: Just because an initiative may improve a metric or the experience of a user doesn’t automatically mean it should be done. A good idea is not the same as a great opportunity.

I’ve yet to meet a team in a news organization that suffers from a shortage of good ideas. But I have met teams that have clogged up their roadmaps with lots of good ideas that, cumulatively, have little impact. Saying yes to every good idea, however small, means you’re not making time for the great opportunities.

But 2020 should be the year when newsrooms go back to basics and, rather than just focusing on process and optimization, instead prioritize industry-changing product innovation.

The first step of this will see publishers return to the key question: “How does your product grow?” It’s one of the most important questions to be able to answer. Growth is necessary for the very existence of most products and services, and it serves as evidence that you have a compelling proposition — especially if growth is driven by both new and loyal returning readers. Unfortunately, news organizations have tried very hard to distance themselves from growth as an objective over the past three years due to accusations of vanity metrics and clickbait. But growth is necessary for future success.

The best product strategies are about being different. It means deliberately choosing a path to deliver a hard-to-copy mix of value in your market. But much of today’s journalism — in terms of both content and format — feels very similar. Do publishers really understand how they deliver value? Many may say yes — but when did they last ask their readers, potential readers, or (perhaps even more critically) their lapsed readers?

As we enter 2020, publishers will begin to recognize that they need new need strategies, new propositions, and a deep understanding of how they add value for their different audiences in order to build the next phase of sustainable growth. This will require not just radical new strategic thinking, but also developing new levels of understanding of users and collaborative ways of working across the entire organization.

Tanya Cordrey is a product and technology consultant and former chief digital officer of Guardian News & Media.

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Kevin D. Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Millie Tran   Wicked

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms