The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

“We know that change is continuous, and yet we’ve gotten comfortable in thinking about change initiatives as having a beginning and end. Even the word we often use — transformation — suggests a stable end state, a time when the change is done and we can all just get back to work.”

If back in 2013, you’d written off metro newspapers as can’t-get-it/won’t-get-it dinosaurs on a slow descent into irrelevance, it might have been hard to argue otherwise. Too many treated audiences with indifference if not outright disdain. Witness the painful ad experiences they threw at people or the smug, we-know-best attitude in Page 1 meetings that, tellingly, mostly revolved around print.

What a difference a few years make! The clarity of purpose that comes with asking people to pay for our digital products — and then needing to actually build products worth paying for — has begun to permeate even the most change-averse organizations. Yes, there’s still a lot of ground to make up, but finally, the journalistic mission and the business-model imperative are roughly aligned, with paying customers as our north star.

This year, some early paywall adopters among metro dailies began to see a path to a credible post-print business model. The Boston Globe that it had 90,000 digital-only subscribers with a goal of 100,000 by the end of 2017, while the Star Tribune in Minneapolis said it was closing in on 50,000.

At the same time, change initiatives in newsrooms have multiplied, sometimes aided by outside groups such as the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute (which owns the Philadelphia newspapers and Philly.com, where I work) or spurred by dire internal reports laying out in stark terms the current reality and the futility of continuing on the present trajectory. My newsroom colleagues here in Philadelphia, for example, produced a “call to arms” report last year, which served as an effective catalyst for we’ve undertaken over the last 18 months or so and continue to press forward on.

The old model

As important as the rising number of change efforts, though, will be shifts in how news organizations conduct those efforts. While one-time introspection is useful in pointing out gaps and jolting an organization into action, it is insufficient to bring about the sustained change we need. The New York Times, whose seminal innovation report in 2014 was widely studied and copied, acknowledged the unfinished nature of its own efforts by producing a this year.

We know that change is continuous, and yet we’ve gotten comfortable in thinking about change initiatives as having a beginning and end. Even the word we often use — transformation — suggests a stable end state, a time when the change is done and we can all just get back to work. That’s an illusion. After well over a decade of “transforming” journalism for the digital age, any change effort today that doesn’t acknowledge the open-ended reality of the challenges we face is asking for derision from transformation-weary staffs.

In Philadelphia, we’ve learned this lesson through our participation over the past two years in the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, more popularly known as Designed and led by , founding executive director of the , Table Stakes uses a primary focus on real performance goals and results not only to drive needed change in local news organizations but also to build the capacity for innovation and change in the years ahead.

The new model

Among other things, the program favors an iterative approach that values learning and reacting over long-term planning and phasing. This may seem obvious to anybody familiar with agile development methodology, but as a framework for organizational change, it’s surprising how novel a concept this model is in our industry.

Here are a few of the things this approach has helped us effect in Philadelphia:

  • A mandate at the individual and team level to regularly review priorities and use audience insights to inform them.
  • The beginnings of a culture of continuous learning and experimentation in pursuit of clear performance results.
  • The practice of reviewing the success or failure of every experiment and documenting lessons learned.
  • An end to the notion of indefinite ownership of rigid beats and roles.
  • The discipline to stop doing things that don’t produce sufficient journalistic or business value. (We’re still working on this one, but we learned from our initiative colleagues at The Seattle Times the cathartic value of holding a “celebration of life” ceremony for products that fail.)

In 2016, participated in the first Table Stakes cohort. This year, 32 news organizations are participating across three different Table Stakes programs, and Doug, along with Quentin Hope and Tim Griggs, has published “,” a comprehensive, step-by-step guide publishers can use to guide change. The American Press Institute has also gathered many of the lessons of Table Stakes into its resource currently in beta.

My prediction: 2018 will see more legacy news organizations picking up and sticking with performance-focused iterative models for change, and local journalism will be stronger for it.

is managing editor for digital operations at the Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Burt Herman   Things get real

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Jake Levine   The return to now

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Paul Ford   Go global

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

monaliza.kiev.ua

kamod.net.ua

np.com.ua