What’s in store for the media industry in 2020?
As AI begins to infiltrate, alongside the continued rise of digital medias, what can the news industry expect from the year ahead?
When the news cycle is turning so quickly, it can be hard to take a step back and think about the long-term trends that our clients are dealing with as a new decade dawns. Happily, our friends at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism have spoken to 230 media leaders around the world to find out what the big themes are for 2020. Here are the five major themes:
1. Subscriptions and Churn
Over the last couple of years, many of our clients have set up paywalls or paid memberships to make up the gap in revenue left from the drop in advertising. That is still a major focus.
Publishers have developed ever more sophisticated techniques to get people to pay. Some have subscription tools that kick in around big exclusives and major stories. Others have clever products to target repeat visitors with different messages asking for money at different times. The pressure is also on to keep the customers who have signed up, often on introductory offers. Publishers have found that stories that get people to subscribe aren’t necessarily the ones that keep them paying. Human interest, culture and lifestyle rate highly on the retention front. Watch for many of our clients using more of these stories to fight against churn.
The rise of podcasts continues, particularly as a way to engage younger audiences with news brands, journalism and journalists. However, there are still concerns about how much money there is to be made outside the U.S. market, which has led the audio charge.
Reuters already provides short news stories for Google Assistant and MP4 downloads for podcast creators through Connect (stories with the icon). Expect more in audio this year.
3. Misinformation and fact-checking
Although the big tech platforms have taken action to limit the spread of misinformation and promote trusted news brands, the general feeling is that they still aren’t doing enough. Twitter rates the highest, likely due to their take on political ads.
In the meantime, journalists around the world are fact-checking politicians and trying to hold power to account but worry it is having little impact on the public. This could get worse as it becomes easier to manipulate photos and videos so people even doubt that they can believe what they see. Reuters has produced a fantastic course on how to spot manipulated media as part of the Facebook Journalism Project. I thoroughly recommend it.
The drop in trust in journalism has partly been blamed on a lack of diversity. If we don’t hire people from different communities who can reflect different points of view and experiences, journalism risks becoming irrelevant to swathes of the population. Editors tend to think they are doing better on diversity than others in the newsroom. As you know, Reuters has set diversity as a major pillar of Newsroom of the Future and we plan to play a leading role in tackling this problem.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Several publishers are teaching machines how to learn your consumption habits so AI can recommend further reading or spot what you don’t yet know about a topic. Others use AI for automatic transcription and translation, checking copy against a style guide, doing basic subbing and laying out the front page. Here at Reuters we have been experimenting with synthetic media, building a prototype for automated news videos.
Reuters also continues to invest in Lynx Insight, which already saves time writing markets and sports stories. We will see increasing AI throughout journalism – and life in general – this year and beyond. For more predictions, download the Trend and Predictions report for a full picture of 2020. It will be an interesting year, for sure…