Publishing Insiders Offer 2018 Predictions

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"I don't know a single journalist who got into the business to spend time learning about ad models, paywalls, funnels and the like. But that's exactly what has to happen, and soon."

That comes from Aron Pilhofer, the James B. Steele chair in journalism innovation at Temple University, in one of an excellent series of Predictions for Journalism 2018 from NiemanLab. Pilhofer's point is that content creators must pay attention to what drives revenue and help lead those initiatives.

Jim Brady, CEO of Spirited Media and public editor of ESPN, said that although his company has built "intensely loyal audiences" through events and social media, they also need to do more if they want audiences to pay more. "That means higher-impact events [and] talking directly to readers even more than we do now, which may come in the form of a members-only Slack channel where we post stories first, talk about what we're covering, or answer questions from readers."

Here are 7 more highlights of NiemanLab's series:

Start a podcast. "Search, in-home devices, and native apps are all muscling into a territory that they will help expand quickly, giving podcast creators tremendous new freedom in storytelling formats and even revenue models," writes Caitlin Thompson, director of content for Acast and publisher of Racquet. "...we'll start to see several revenue models arise to support the diversity of content now possible by untethering the form from RSS."

Supplement your subscription model: "Subscriptions are on the mind for every publisher as Facebook and Google continue to cannibalize ad dollars," writes Dheerja Kaur, head of product at theSkimm. She lists ways to add revenue such as premium content and special access. "Users pay to get special access to things like events, swag and behind-the scenes looks, generally transacting on brand loyalty and affinity. We're seeing more publishers try this route, often as 'memberships.'"

Create more "bridge" roles. "With digital transformation, new roles have emerged..." writes Federica Cherubini, head of knowledge sharing at Condé Nast International. "...we've seen product managers getting more involved in editorial projects...analytics and data experts moved from the marketing department to the newsroom. Social media editors brought the audience into the newsroom... If these roles will be key, it's important that we start to raise awareness around their challenges and empower them to keep pushing innovation forward now."

Build sustainable relationships. "Randomly attacking anonymous first-time users with products and offers is very 2008 and has been overcome even by third-class e-commerce sites," writes Pia Frey, cofounder of Opinary. "In 2018, we will see less and less of this scattershot approach. Many of us who have ambitions to grow our subscriber base will personalize our loyalty funnel and find new and better ways to target potential subscribers." Address individually, she advises, make a "low-barrier first-move" like follow us on Twitter, and see what they're consuming. Then offer more.

Focus on quality to increase loyalty. "As business models shift from pageview-driven display to direct sales—whether subscriptions, memberships, events or courses—key performance indicators evolve," writes Sarah Marshall, head of audience growth at Vogue International, Condé Nast International. "In 2018, journalists will become more attuned to loyalty metrics and the types of stories and distribution methods that encourage repeat visits."

Think mobile and bite size. "In alignment with the revenue-first strategy and trust efforts, news organizations will focus on projects that allow them to own niche audiences and drive traffic and engagement with short-form, mobile-friendly content," writes José Zamora, vice president of strategic communications for Univision News. "We will see a stronger comeback of 'retro' formats and distribution platforms that range from newsletters like theSkimm to mobile micro reports to video explainers, podcasts, bots and bite-sized content that is easy to digest on your mobile device."

Pay even more attention to keywords. "In this new world, the keywords that SEO experts layer into headlines and URLs will become even more critical," writes Helen Havlak, editorial director of The Verge. "We previously thought about keyword hygiene as a strategy to make sure that users searching for your content could find it. Now, keywords could determine whether your article makes it into users' feeds at all. Having millions of subscribers will matter less than making content that can hit the right user interest categories."

Check out all the predictions here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…