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.

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

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

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

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

L. Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

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Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

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

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

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

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

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

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

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

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

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

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

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

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

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

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

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

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

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

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

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Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

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Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Cory Haik   Be essential

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Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

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John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

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Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

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

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

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

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

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Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

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Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

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Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

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

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

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

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

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

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

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Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

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

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

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Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

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

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Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

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

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

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