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.

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

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

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

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

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

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

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

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

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

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

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

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

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

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

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

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Mario García   Think small (screen)

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

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

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

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

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

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

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

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

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

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

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

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

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

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

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

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

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

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

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

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

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

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

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

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

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

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

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

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

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

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Millie Tran   Wicked

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

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

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

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

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

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

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

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

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

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

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

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

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

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

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

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

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