People won’t renew

“They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel.”

Expect another tough year for journalism.

Neither dual antitrust lawsuits against Facebook from the FTC and 46 state attorneys general nor the DOJ’s monopoly case against Google will funnel money to news operations in 2021. Wonks and media watchers will tune to C-SPAN, hopeful that legal action will ease the duopoly’s chokehold on ad dollars, but that won’t happen without a prolonged fight. Remember: The Microsoft case spanned nearly a decade. And many journalism outlets can’t survive that long without radical evolution.

In 2021, expect more noble and/or hopeful but modest efforts to direct money to journalists and newsrooms, deeply roiled long before the contagion locked down Wuhan. But expect those efforts to sustain too few newsrooms. More subject specialists will flock to Substack, hopeful of emulating Andrew Sullivan’s successful subscription model. But really: How many deserving newsletters or sites can one admirer afford — or consume?

Still, expect more newsrooms to secure some grants, (eventually) hold events, and push subscriptions and memberships, perhaps garnering a few more adherents but not enough to guarantee longevity.

Gird for too few renewals or continuing support — not just because so many Americans are in financial distress, but because as people step farther from their keyboards as the pandemic ebbs, many will tire of reading about political, biological and financial chaos. They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel. Then they’ll return to relying on the convenient social pipelines filled with fluff and fakery, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Google. (Little will change at those platforms beyond hiring more lawyers to fight regulators and federal officials).

The Fourth Estate will remain in dire circumstances, with too few billionaires and well-intended donors to ensure the long-term gainful employment of professional and ethical reporters (and editors, designers, product managers, et al.) to do the time- and resource-intensive watchdogging of individuals, institutions and government that protects our democracy.

In yet another Darwinian year, the technologically sophisticated and financially stable New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal will be fine. That’s good for them, as their journalism and interactives are often stellar, but reliance on too few reputable news sources antagonizes the right and contributes to echo chambers, efficiently elevated by algorighms. And guess which platforms are best at monetizing those?

The same ones that deservingly are in the legal hot seat. In 2021, let’s hope for faster inroads in breaking barriers and finding solutions to ensure that journalism survives and thrives.

And fingers crossed that Report For America wins the $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant, which I would predict will happen but don’t want to jinx anything.

Expect another tough year for journalism.

Neither dual antitrust lawsuits against Facebook from the FTC and 46 state attorneys general nor the DOJ’s monopoly case against Google will funnel money to news operations in 2021. Wonks and media watchers will tune to C-SPAN, hopeful that legal action will ease the duopoly’s chokehold on ad dollars, but that won’t happen without a prolonged fight. Remember: The Microsoft case spanned nearly a decade. And many journalism outlets can’t survive that long without radical evolution.

In 2021, expect more noble and/or hopeful but modest efforts to direct money to journalists and newsrooms, deeply roiled long before the contagion locked down Wuhan. But expect those efforts to sustain too few newsrooms. More subject specialists will flock to Substack, hopeful of emulating Andrew Sullivan’s successful subscription model. But really: How many deserving newsletters or sites can one admirer afford — or consume?

Still, expect more newsrooms to secure some grants, (eventually) hold events, and push subscriptions and memberships, perhaps garnering a few more adherents but not enough to guarantee longevity.

Gird for too few renewals or continuing support — not just because so many Americans are in financial distress, but because as people step farther from their keyboards as the pandemic ebbs, many will tire of reading about political, biological and financial chaos. They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel. Then they’ll return to relying on the convenient social pipelines filled with fluff and fakery, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Google. (Little will change at those platforms beyond hiring more lawyers to fight regulators and federal officials).

The Fourth Estate will remain in dire circumstances, with too few billionaires and well-intended donors to ensure the long-term gainful employment of professional and ethical reporters (and editors, designers, product managers, et al.) to do the time- and resource-intensive watchdogging of individuals, institutions and government that protects our democracy.

In yet another Darwinian year, the technologically sophisticated and financially stable New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal will be fine. That’s good for them, as their journalism and interactives are often stellar, but reliance on too few reputable news sources antagonizes the right and contributes to echo chambers, efficiently elevated by algorighms. And guess which platforms are best at monetizing those?

The same ones that deservingly are in the legal hot seat. In 2021, let’s hope for faster inroads in breaking barriers and finding solutions to ensure that journalism survives and thrives.

And fingers crossed that Report For America wins the $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant, which I would predict will happen but don’t want to jinx anything.

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Cory Haik   Be essential

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

An Xiao Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

j. Siguru Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Juleyka Lantigua   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Richard Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard