This year’s Journalism, Media and Technology report has been published by Reuters Institute analises many of the challenges the Journalism sector faces today. The report covers everything from search, platform referral traffic, impact of AI and Generative AI on newsrooms, as well as future business models for the media sector.
As the report is very extensive, we have decided to summarize it in bullet points to help understand the main predictions for the sector in 2024.
1. Printing press closing doors and the diversification of digital content
This year we will see even more newspapers abandoning daily print production due to increased printing costs and, in some cases, bankruptcy. Major media outlets seeking to retain their customer base with full-access subscriptions will include games, podcasts, magazines, books, and even content from other journalistic organizations.
1. Reducing dependence on advertising
Major technological platforms will also lean towards payment models, aiming to reduce their dependence on advertising.
3. Increasing the use of Bots and AI
Bots and AI personal assistants will gain even more ground, particularly in breaking news and sports, raising significant questions about intellectual property. Many of these bots will be fueled by celebrity or journalist clones, raising legal and ethical concerns.
4. The debate between between "fatalists" and "accelerationists"
Battles between "fatalists" and "accelerationists" of AI will be intense, with accelerationists continuing to lead as governments struggle to understand and control the technology.
5. Traffic and advertising declining
The slowdown in the advertising market and the decline in reliable traffic from major platforms have contributed to widespread job reductions in the sector. These economic challenges are exacerbated by the erosion of trust in the media.
6. Trust in news declining
Political division and polarization further erode trust in news, leading tech companies to devalue news. The toxicity of many news and political conversations has pushed many people into private spaces, such as messaging apps.
7. Strengthening of social media platforms
At the same time, we see the strengthening of content-based networks like YouTube and TikTok, where users have increasingly powerful creation and distribution tools. These short-video-based networks are growing rapidly worldwide and are the primary way for young audiences to access news.
8. Diversification of digital marketing channels
Media outlets are focusing more on direct traffic through websites, apps, newsletters, and podcasts, channels they have greater control over. They will put more energy into WhatsApp. Topics may play a larger role in the news, and companies like Google and Microsoft are exploring new ways to display content, known as generative AI search experiences, raising concerns that there are now even fewer reasons to click on them.
9. Increased proliferation of AI conversation assistants
This year, we will see a proliferation of AI conversation assistants integrated into computers, mobile phones, and even cars, changing how we discover content of all kinds. Perplexity.ai is a website and browser extension that allows asking questions or summarizing news articles. Pi.ai presents itself as a companion capable of coherent conversation on any subject, including the latest news.
10. Copyright battles will create new revenue channels for content producers
Copyright battles are looming to compensate for losses in traffic and revenue resulting from AI, as OpenAI and Google train their systems with historical data or provide real-time news. By the end of 2023, about half of the major media outlets had already blocked large AI platforms from accessing their content. By revoking permission, news organizations are better positioned to negotiate lucrative deals with platforms. If these voluntary agreements fail, some news organizations will use their influence with politicians to lobby.
11. Volatility of the advertising market will benefit only the large companies
Only a handful of large companies will benefit. The ongoing volatility of the advertising market and the greater shift of the audience to digital will make this another challenging year from a business perspective. In the United States, about 20,000 jobs (not just in journalism) have been lost, and between two and three local newspapers close each week. Additionally, some digital natives like Vox and Vice, whose businesses depended on social platforms, are shrinking. The outlook is more positive among various media that have opted for paid models. According to our research, there is continued growth in subscriptions despite the challenging economic situation. However, in many cases, the increase in digital revenue is not enough to offset the decline in revenues.
12. Media companies will embrace digital revenue models
To survive, media companies will have to embrace the digital. Looking at the most important revenue streams in the future, this year digital subscription and affiliation have widened their lead over advertising. Both events and e-commerce have increased in relevance, but now there is less hope of getting additional money from major tech companies (20%).
13. Slowing subscriptions will increase "blunding"
With the slowing growth of subscriptions, either because the majority of major news consumers are already subscribers, and the cancellation rate is becoming a growing burden, a trend towards bundling is expected. The New York Times moved as many customers as possible to the "All Access" package, which includes NYT Audio, The Athletic (sports), Wirecutter (reviews), Cooking (food), and Games (games). Games like Connections, attracting about 10 million users per week, are designed to create habits and affinities and to boost news consumption. Over time, All Access subscribers may find it more challenging to cancel their subscription, and therefore the price may increase. Other large companies, leveraging their market power, combine local and national publications with paid magazines and podcasts in a comprehensive offering. So far, most of these packages involved collaborations within the same company, but this year, some media are expected to partner with other providers to add value.
14. Low-cost niches will serve to attract more subscribers
In 2024, we are likely to see more high-end journalism brands offering "light" versions in an attempt to attract audiences (often younger) who are interested in news but do not want or cannot pay the full price. Other low-cost products focus on specific niches. Other media charge differentiated prices based on usage or negotiated rates. Many of these techniques come from the telecommunications sector, but this year they will be increasingly applied in the journalism sector.
15. Tendency towards audio and video will increase
The traditional article is shifting towards audio and video, partly due to new devices and the emergence of platforms specialized in the creation, discovery, and distribution of audio and video. Additionally, many young consumers prefer these formats over text. This shift will require a significant cultural change, moving away from text and towards multimedia production.
16. Tendency for shorter formats
Formats that retain and engage the audience (audio and newsletters) have become much more valuable, especially for subscription-based media. In the realm of free access, short videos, where investment is more of a response to the need to attract younger audiences, are prominent. Attempts are expected on platforms where they spend their time, such as YouTube Shorts and TikTok, in an effort to build relationships rather than generate immediate revenue. Media outlets will increasingly seek to incorporate these narrative techniques into their content, and experts in short videos will continue to be in high demand.
17. Proliferation of Political Podcasts
Political podcasts have proliferated, with many of these programs now being filmed and distributed through platforms like YouTube. Media organizations, such as the BBC, are also converting podcasts into television shows (e.g., Newscast). As part of this trend, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson plans to launch his own video network for political conversations, intending to sell subscriptions directly to the American public starting in April.
18. Disconnection from news and selection of niche areas
Media are concerned about the disconnection and selective evasion of news. News consumers often feel overwhelmed by the number of available options, and studies show that many people are less interested or not interested at all in the news, especially among the youth. Industry leaders are trying to address this issue by improving the way they explain complex issues (67%), offering news that not only identifies problems but also provides possible solutions (44%), and producing more inspiring human stories (43%). Positive news or lighter approaches are less enthusiastically received (21% and 18%, respectively). The coverage of climate change has become so deeply disturbing that many people have turned away from its media treatment.
19. Raise of citozen and "activism" type channels
The concept of citizen journalism is growing, especially in war zones where many powerful testimonies come from local residents, including a new generation familiar with tools like Instagram and TikTok. Young activists and journalists are also making their mark in other parts of the world, attempting to broaden the voices that contribute to reporting and the range of stories covered.
20. AI tools will personalize news for different audiences
In 2024, the journalistic landscape will feature an increasingly common characteristic: AI-based tools that change the language of news production to improve its relevance and understanding for specific audiences. Apps like Artifact rewrite news articles for a five-year-old child, adapt them to the style of Generation Z, or present them as a series of emojis. Similar features will spread rapidly. Generative AI can be an advantage in making businesses more efficient by summarizing news, making young people more likely to click for more information, optimizing titles for search, and automating certain functions in the newsroom.
21. AI tools will help produce content
AI aids in initial translation, followed by human editing. Tools like Midjourney are used to create illustrations, and AI can write articles or use synthetic voices to convert text into an hourly news bulletin.
22. AI automation can revolutionize the newsroom
Journalists are concerned about the consequences of this type of automation, both for employment and trust in the media. However, most do not believe that AI will replace informative work. On the other hand, back-end automation (11%), distribution, and programming are considered less hazardous tasks. In 2024, there will be widespread adoption in newsrooms to incorporate these technologies into their workflows.
23. Many AI tools will help produce, optimize and fact check content
A sign of the times to come is the "Hennibot" from Helsingin Sanomat, a tool that flags language that can be improved or makes recommendations, such as a more appropriate link. At Aftonbladet, a Youth Assistant creates fact boxes and question-answer sets to ensure that "an 18-year-old" can easily understand the content. In the Philippines, Rappler recently won a journalism and AI competition with a similar set of tools called TLDR (derived from too long, didn't read), which converts published articles into summaries, graphics, and videos.
24. Concerns about fake generated content
Concerns exist about the potential use of these new technologies to generate synthetic images, audio, and video within seconds, potentially reaching specific audiences on a large scale. Nevertheless, the greater danger may not be that people "believe lies, but that no one believes anything," as political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote in the context of another turbulent period. The vast majority of respondents are quite pessimistic about the implications for trust. "The explosion of junk content definitely has the potential to shake trust in the media," emphasizes Christoph Zimmer, Head of Product at Der Spiegel (Germany). The fight against misinformation will be a fundamental priority in the EU. Regulators have the power to fine platforms and even ban them entirely from the EU market. None of this can be ruled out, and attention is focused on X, where human moderation has substantially decreased over the last year.
25. EU's AI act can help reduce risks
The imminent European Union Artificial Intelligence law aims to further reduce risks, but mandatory compliance is unlikely before 2026. It begins with a voluntary Code of Conduct on AI-generated disinformation, with a crucial point being that platforms detect and label any use of AI.