It’s important for journalists to reflect on the current state of media and identify trends to determine how best to meet the challenges of the changing news landscape.
In a recent ICFJ Crisis Reporting Forum session, Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, discussed trends and predictions for journalism in the next year.
He outlined the findings from a research report he published with the Reuters Institute that dives into likely media trends in the upcoming year, specifically around technology.
“Less than half [of respondents] are confident about the prospects for journalism in the year ahead,” Newman cautioned. “A significant proportion are distinctly unconfident about the year ahead.”
Here are three expectations for journalism in 2024, driven by Newman’s research:
1) There will be major changes in social and traditional media
In 2024, there will be major change in the already complex relationship between social media and traditional media, Newman predicted.
For one, influencers are getting more popular. As a result, the information they spread will be increasingly likely to gain more traction than news distributed by traditional media outlets, Newman said.
The distribution of news has already drastically changed in recent years with the rise in popularity of video-centered apps like TikTok and YouTube. Newman’s findings reflected this: “[The data] really shows this switch into a more complex information distribut[ing] ecosystem, but also one that doesn't involve so much Facebook.”
In response, publishers are expanding how they reach news consumers, for instance by utilizing WhatsApp broadcast channels to send personalized content.
2) AI disruption will be everywhere
The much-discussed emergence of AI will continue to be a major disruptor in 2024.
Newman’s research found that many publishers and journalists are most worried about the reputational risk of AI, specifically in how the technology will change content creation. Respondents believed that the use of AI beyond simple assistant tasks risked the integrity of journalistic content and threatened trust with audiences.
Another threat from AI is search disruption, or the potential for AI to replace traditional media when consumers are searching for information. “Some publishers [...] really see this as an existential threat that search-generated experiences will replace some things that media companies do,” Newman said.
The effects of AI are yet to be fully known, he stressed. This limits the ability to predict how the news industry will respond. The major question is, “how far and fast will AI disrupt these business models?” he said. This will depend on how publishers respond.
3) Funding for traditional media will evolve
Publishers are searching for new ways to fund themselves. Already, they are offering new subscription models, including bundling content – a model that combines various content types in one subscription package. This has been shown to cut into unsubscriber rates among audiences, Newman said.
Because of ongoing funding issues today, much of the media is catered toward who can afford to pay for their news. This leads to inaccessibility for large portions of the population. “The challenge is, how do you fund the kind of journalism people need to make democratic decisions?” Newman said.
Developments this year will be incredibly important for understanding how the media will respond to future changes in audience behavior and technological developments. Publishers, added Newman, will likely look for more direct relationships with their customers amid these changes.
“A lot of the templates of how the world is going to work in the next 10 years are going to be defined this year,” he concluded.