The news out of the platforms has been bleak as of late. Mass layoffs, entire departments gutted, the latest at Twitter. It once seemed like these spaces were places where journalism would thrive. Well, they were and they weren’t. And it doesn’t really matter now because journalism is surely taking a smaller role in whatever future direction these companies take.
That’s good news — for our focus.
It was easy to be intoxicated during the early days of social. We were reaching audience heights we never imagined. Our journalism was spreading across the globe. We had live dialogues with our readers. But the audience sizes didn’t always translate to engagement or revenue. And we didn’t always develop the kinds of authentic relationships with our readers that we need to build strong businesses. Now, we have an opportunity to build something better.
Even with all of those advertising headwinds, plenty of industry forces are blowing our way these days. Consumers have become more literate in data visualization (thanks, years of poring over the Covid case charts!), providing a long-awaited mainstreaming of one of journalism’s most differentiated assets. Audio journalism is thriving — finding new and innovative ways to engage listeners. Video is hitting its stride as an explanatory medium in both short and long form. We may or may not be at peak newsletter, but it’s a place I’m happy to plateau on for a while since these products have given us a more reliable way to become part of our users’ daily habits and a great way to play with authentic voice that connects with our customers. The eventual death of the third-party cookie presents an opening for publishers to reclaim our rightful place as the way for advertisers to reach premium audiences that we, uniquely, know very well. News fatigue and subscription fatigue are both very real, but they point to a clear path forward:
Every day, and in every department, we need to focus on the value we provide our users.
We must learn everything we can about who they are and what they need. And then we provide it through journalism that helps them navigate their world. We provide it through product experiences that don’t ask our users to work too hard to understand what we have to say. We deliver this news to them through their medium of choice (email, text, video, push) and provide experiences that load quickly, eliminate clutter and get straight to the point.
Once, and only if, we get that user service right, our business models fall into place. We’ll find it easier to convert and retain subscribers if we consistently bring this kind of value every day. Our events will become meaningful connection points for our communities offline. And the more we know about the audiences we serve, the more insightful a partner we can be to our advertising clients once the third-party cookie finally bites the dust.
This kind of growth may not feel as exhilarating as the social growth roller coaster we’ve been on for the last decade. But it’s authentic. Showing up every day and putting in the work speaks to the mission that led us all to this business in the first place. Let’s make 2023 the year we recommit.
Julia Beizer is the chief digital officer of Bloomberg Media.