Thank god for ad blocking.
Thank god for the handwringing and number-crunching over its impact on digital revenues. Sure, the jury is still out on what exactly that impact will be; but no matter what the future holds, it’s likely the kerfuffle will have one incredibly positive effect on the media landscape in 2016: It will change the conversation about revenue models for media companies.
There has been an enormous amount of creativity in the digital newsroom, with an explosion of new ways of telling stories and presenting information, much of it chronicled here at Nieman Lab. Consumers are spending more time with digital media than ever before, and storytellers are finding myriad new ways to bring news and reporting to life.
Newsrooms now regularly produce interactive and data-driven stories, launch podcasts, and experiment with new, structured formats (like, say, Vox’s card stacks). Longform storytelling is in a serious golden age, email newsletters are better than ever, and short- and long-form video is booming. Distributed content has encouraged new ways of telling stories, too, with journalists crafting content for Snapchat Discover, building Twitter bots, Instagramming photo essays, and chatting with users about elections and disasters on WhatsApp. Given this flurry of creativity, it’s hard to see why these are hard times for journalism.
But as we’ve poured resources and heart into editorial innovations like these, we haven’t yet seen similarly ambitious innovations in how we earn revenue from these things. All too often, we’ve been asking: What kinds of ads would work well in this new format?
In 2016, the ad blocking conversation could finally drive the industry to grapple with the need for new revenue opportunities.
This was my contribution to Nieman Lab’s 2016 predictions series. Some related predictions that I liked:
“The year we start to talk about the business side,” by Amanda Hale
Without a business plan, there is no freedom of the press. That’s a line I keep on my Twitter bio, and pinned under a magnet on my kitchen fridge. It’s attributable to an Arab Spring-era Egyptian publisher, whose truth-to-power newspaper was shuttered not because of totalitarian repression, but simply because it ran out of cash. As an industry, we know far too well by now that news needs a business plan. But who will make it? Who will strike the deals, construct the financial models, and sell the ads that will keep the lights on in foreign bureaus across the world? I think it’s time for us to have that conversation. So let me toss my little penny into this fountain, and make the hopeful prediction that 2016 is the year that we start.
“Nationals wake up to the opportunity in local media,” by Ted Williams
Money matters. Local media innovation is as much about the business model as it is about the journalism.