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JOURNALISM IN THE TWENTIES

JOURNALISM IN THE TWENTIES

April 17, 2020

The last decade was defined by the twin technological outbreaks of mobile and social media, which transformed the world in ways both good and bad, paving the way for the future.

 

One consequence is that these changes have undermined traditional media brands’ advertising-based business models and weakened the role of journalistic gatekeepers. Trust in journalism has been shaken and has caused disruption for independent news media in many countries.

 

But as we look towards the new decade, what could the future hold for journalism, media and technology?

 

A recent Reuters Institute report, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020, takes a quick spin through 2020 and provides some useful insights on how media leaders view the key issues facing the news industry.

 

THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM WILL BE PAID FOR

 

In recent years, subscriptions, memberships and paywalls have proliferated as a way for publishers to raise revenues after years of decline in paid print readership and advertising revenue. Many publishers are now pinning their hopes on paywalls as the primary means of financially underwriting the quality of writing they produce.

 

And actually, the outlook for publishers seems to be very positive. Almost three quarters (73%) of this report’s respondents feel confident about their company’s future, as reader revenues are starting to finally grow thanks to increased audience engagement.

 

Similarly, commercial media (mainly those from the quality end of the market such as The New York Times, the Financial Times and The Guardian) continue to gain revenues from their readership, while advertising income has remained unstable.

 

Smaller companies have taken the same direction, as they too see an opportunity to profit from paid subscriptions and memberships. However, as the market leans towards the user-based subscription model, competition for subscribers will grow, and publications will have to find ways to stand out and earn readers’ loyalty.

 

Readers in 2020 and beyond can therefore expect to encounter an increasing number of paywalls, and so will start to think more critically about the value of subscriptions and deals at renewal time.

 

All these concerns raise a major question around high-quality journalism and whether it will start disappearing behind registration restrictions and paywalls.

 

PLATFORM RESPONSIBILITY

 

While publishers are looking to consolidate their own positions, social media platforms are doing something similar as they seek to be the go-to source of news content for users.

 

However it isn’t all adversarial: social media businesses have been undertaking initiatives to build better relationships and improve trust with media organisations.

 

Of the main platforms it seems that Google has been most successful. When asked about the degree to which they felt different platforms have done the most to support journalism, 60% of respondents rated Google average or above.

 

(Source: Reuters Institute)

 

On the contrary, Facebook’s lower score can be explained by recent data scandals and a historic distrust following various changes of product strategy that left some publishers financially exposed. (Note: Apple, Snapchat and Amazon scored lower in part because they received a large number of “Don’t know” responses in the survey)

 

WILL PAID JOURNALISM SURVIVE?

 

It’s becoming clear that high-quality, paid journalism does seem to be commercially viable, which is good news for the consumers that can afford it. However, publishers will remain resentful about the unfair competition from platforms and tech companies, a reality which will drive them to push their rights harder in the years ahead.