The year we stop pivoting

“No one platform can solve all of our audience growth and revenue problems. We should have all learned our lesson from one of the many pivots of the last few years.”

The media industry has become obsessed with pivoting. As the industry changed rapidly and repeatedly, and as advertising revenue dwindled, journalists and media companies tried to stay ahead of the curve by pivoting to the “next” thing — multiple times. The industry’s instability has led many to chase new platforms or formats, hoping they can bring security and stability — whether that’s video, podcasts, newsletters, Facebook, or TikTok.

There was the infamous pivot to video of 2015, which turned out to be a spectacular failure, with Facebook admitting to inflating video views in 2016 and then changing its algorithm in 2017. There was the time every publisher was competing to get a Snapchat Discover channel. There was that month when everyone tried to launch a prestige true-crime podcast. Then it was publishers trying to figure out how to go viral on TikTok.

The most recent pivot is to newsletters, as several journalists have left established publications to strike out on their own. And Substack may be the new shiny platform on the block, but newsletters as a medium aren’t new. A handful of journalists going full-time on newsletters shouldn’t be viewed as a sea change in how the media industry operates.

It’s time to stop pivoting. Publishers need to stop chasing the newest, hottest platform of the moment; no one platform can solve all of our audience growth and revenue problems. We should have all learned our lesson from one of the many pivots of the last few years: Putting all our hopes into one platform is a mistake. And the human costs of those mistakes are very real — investing significant resources into a pivot has frequently led to layoffs when publishers realize they can no longer sustain entire teams working on a single platform when that platform isn’t generating the revenue they’d hoped for.

Instead, publishers in 2021 should stay the course and focus on a diverse portfolio instead of placing all their bets on the newest thing. Text, video, podcasts, newsletters, Facebook, Instagram — even Tiktok — all are important. Rather than putting all our eggs in one basket, though, a wise media organization in 2021 knows that it’s better to reach each platform’s unique audience where they are instead of putting all their resources into just one.

Nisha Chittal is director of audience and engagement at Vox.com.

The media industry has become obsessed with pivoting. As the industry changed rapidly and repeatedly, and as advertising revenue dwindled, journalists and media companies tried to stay ahead of the curve by pivoting to the “next” thing — multiple times. The industry’s instability has led many to chase new platforms or formats, hoping they can bring security and stability — whether that’s video, podcasts, newsletters, Facebook, or TikTok.

There was the infamous pivot to video of 2015, which turned out to be a spectacular failure, with Facebook admitting to inflating video views in 2016 and then changing its algorithm in 2017. There was the time every publisher was competing to get a Snapchat Discover channel. There was that month when everyone tried to launch a prestige true-crime podcast. Then it was publishers trying to figure out how to go viral on TikTok.

The most recent pivot is to newsletters, as several journalists have left established publications to strike out on their own. And Substack may be the new shiny platform on the block, but newsletters as a medium aren’t new. A handful of journalists going full-time on newsletters shouldn’t be viewed as a sea change in how the media industry operates.

It’s time to stop pivoting. Publishers need to stop chasing the newest, hottest platform of the moment; no one platform can solve all of our audience growth and revenue problems. We should have all learned our lesson from one of the many pivots of the last few years: Putting all our hopes into one platform is a mistake. And the human costs of those mistakes are very real — investing significant resources into a pivot has frequently led to layoffs when publishers realize they can no longer sustain entire teams working on a single platform when that platform isn’t generating the revenue they’d hoped for.

Instead, publishers in 2021 should stay the course and focus on a diverse portfolio instead of placing all their bets on the newest thing. Text, video, podcasts, newsletters, Facebook, Instagram — even Tiktok — all are important. Rather than putting all our eggs in one basket, though, a wise media organization in 2021 knows that it’s better to reach each platform’s unique audience where they are instead of putting all their resources into just one.

Nisha Chittal is director of audience and engagement at Vox.com.

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

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

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

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

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

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

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

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

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

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

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

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

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

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

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

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

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

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

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

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

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

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

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

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

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

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

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

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

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

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

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

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

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

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

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

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

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

james Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

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

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

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

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

Cory Haik   Be essential

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

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

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

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

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

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

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

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

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

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

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

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

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

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

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

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

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

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

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

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Don Day   Business first, journalism second