Innovation in 2017

Selling Trust in Journalism – Nieman Lab Predictions

Written by Michael Wastell

The Sales Funnel Reaches (and changes) the Newsroom – Anita Zielina

In reframing the idea of online interaction with journalism as a ‘digital sales funnel’ Zielina offers an optimistic perspective on the challenges facing modern journalism. She says that users are in effect shopping for journalism and that it is not what draws them into a news service website, but what keeps them there.

a user’s first click creates very little value per se, besides creating an ad impression. The second click is when it starts to become interesting.

Blurring the lines between journalistic content and sales may at first glance make reporters wary but as Zielina alludes in her title, this sales funnel has existed in the digital sphere for many years. It has merely now reached the newsroom.

Treating the profound shift in the media landscape as an opportunity rather than as a disaster sets Zielina’s prediction apart from many others.

The Country Doesn’t Trust Us – But They Do Believe Us – Richard J Tofel

For all the doomsday predictions and criticisms of the ‘mainstream media,’ journalists still wield the greatest influence over the subjects discussed by society and the attitudes towards them.

Tofel quotes many interesting statistics relating to both trust in the media and Donald Trump. One point which stuck with me in particular;

Being liked is not our job as journalists.

Cordial relationships with sources and politicians are essential for good reporting but too often trust is conflated with likeability. This is a pursuit better suited to politicians than the journalists charged with holding them to account.


Taking these two Nieman Lab predictions in tandem with one another opens up an intriguing challenge. In order to provide a sustainable business model for quality journalism readers will need to be treated as consumers.

Their experience of a news site must be tailored to their tastes and expectations. But given the existing trust deficit in reporters and news media more broadly, engaging in user tracking behaviour similar to that employed by Facebook runs the risk of widening the trust gap even further should readers object to being monitored in such a manner.

About the author

Michael Wastell