[Editor’s note: A version of this article by Anton Protsiuk appeared in the latest edition of The Fix’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest media news, opportunities, and insights every Monday.]

Today, let’s look back at some of the biggest themes that defined The Fix’s coverage and the news media more broadly. 

In 2021, we paid a lot of attention to technical innovations and how news publishers can benefit from them. Some of The Fix’s most widely read articles cover such topics as innovative news formats, a top Norwegian daily’s leap to digital, and the power of dynamic paywalls.

Digital subscriptions and other modes of reader revenue have also been important topics. We told successful stories of CEE publications attracting reader revenue, such as Telex and Ukrayinska Pravda. We also marveled at The New York Times’ subscriber strategy and why it’s so hard to replicate 

Two of the most promising editorial formats of the year have been newsletters and podcasts – as David Tvrdon observed in his column asking “What if the future of media is only newsletters and podcasts?”; followed by reviews of the ways publishers are making money from both formats

Although the year has been great in terms of business and tech, it also marked further deterioration of press freedom in CEE and elsewhere. The Fix covered how Meduza and other Russian outlets are struggling with “foreign agent” designations; how what remained of press freedom in Belarus is being destroyed; as well as worrying trends from Poland, Hungary and other countries.

There are success stories that give us hope – the new investment fund Pluralis, the rapid rebuilding of one of Ukraine’s oldest independent newspapers, the launch of commercially successful and editorially meaningful podcasts about marginalized communities… Let’s hope 2022 will have more of those.

The Fix’s ten most popular stories of the year

The Fix’s mission is cracking the media management puzzle through insights, solutions and data. As the year comes to an end, let’s look at the ten stories published in 2021 that have been most widely-read among our audience.

1. Five must-join Telegram channels on news media

Despite worries about Telegram’s appeal to the far right, the messenger has been instrumental for both fighters for freedom and news media across many countries. Oksana Radzikhovska compiled five Telegram channels to watch in the news media sphere.

2. Europe’s top 20 publishers on TikTok

TikTok has become a global phenomenon – and news media outlets are increasingly finding a way to succeed in attracting young audiences on the platform (and not look like a tryhard). Teona Sekhniashvili made a list of top European publishers riding the TikTok wave.

3. 5 innovative news formats to try out in 2021 – and tools to implement them

The past year has been rich in technological innovations, from vertical video to virtual performances. For a more detailed overview, check this piece by Masha Kovalyova.

4. Digital revolution: High-end digitization solutions from the biggest Norwegian daily

Daryna Shevchenko spoke with Karl Oskar Teien, Director of Product at Aftenposten about the outlet’s successful digital transformation – a look at how the 161-years-old newspaper restructured its front page and launched a synthetic voiceover for the stories to retain subscribers.

5. How to Think about Keyword Cannibalization on News Websites

Keyword cannibalization is thought to be an important problem for the publishers who take SEO seriously. But it’s not always an issue, Mikulas Prokop writes. In the piece, he explains how keyword cannibalization works – and when it can benefit your news outlet.

6. European publishers are making paid podcasts work

2021 has been a big year for paid podcasts, with Apple and Spotify having made important steps to enable paid subscriptions in an industry that has long relied only on advertising. David Tvrdon looked at how European publishers are making paid podcasts work – with examples from France, Germany, UK, Sweden and Poland

7. All the ways publishers are using newsletters to grow paying members

Newsletters have also been on the rise. David Tvrdon made an overview of how news publishers can use them to make money by growing paying members – from straight paid newsletters to referral programs. 

8. The NYT subscriber strategy and why the model is hard to replicate

With over seven million digital subscribers, including over a million subscribers outside its home country, The New York Times has been uniquely successful in bringing reader revenue. David Tvrdon dissects the outlet’s strategy and looks at why, despite benefiting from NYT’s example, actually replicating this model is hard.

9. Dynamic paywalls: the latest must-have tool for publishers?

Traditional paywall is no longer enough for most outlets who are trying to win in the subscriber race. Jessica Vomiero looked at dynamic paywalls – a new technology that offers a set of improvements, from better audience segmentation to AI-driven ad campaigns.

10. How Spain’s Ac2ality became Europe’s biggest TikTok news player

As you saw in The Fix’s second most popular story of 2021, there are dozens of TikTok success stories among European publishers. Still, Spanish media startup Ac2ality has been particularly ahead of the game. Teona Sekhniashvili looked at how the outlet became Europe’s biggest TikTok news player.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash