Each year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) interviews global media leaders on how they view the year ahead. In the 2023 report, 303 news leaders in 53 countries, shared their insights about the trends that publishers need to pay attention to.
Publishers are less confident, due to the energy crisis and inflation
In specific,44% of the surveyed digital leaders say they are confident for the future, while 37% are uncertain and 19% expressed low confidence. Their biggest concerns are related to rising costs, lower interest from advertisers, and the possible reduction of print subscriptions.
Diversified revenue remains a priority, while expected growth in digital subscription & membership
80% of publishers admit that one of their most important revenue priorities will be investing in digital subscriptions, memberships, and donations.
At the same time, most publishers admit that multiple different revenue streams will be important to them this year.
- 75% will focus on display advertising
- More than half (68%) expect some growth in paid content income
- 33% expect significant revenue from tech platforms for content licensing or innovation
At the same time, as seen in the report, publishers in 2023 will focus more on retaining their existing subscribers, rather than adding new ones. As Nic Newman highlights, ‘those who have been running subscription operations for some time have a secure base on which to build and hope they can keep some growth through special price offers or by bundling more premium value such as newsletters and events’.
On the other hand, publishers that want to hang on to the new subscribers gained during recent global emergencies will focus on price cuts and special offers; reducing income in the short term but hopefully leading to more loyalty in the longer term. 'With exceptionally low marginal distribution costs online, all publishers trying to grow their subscription numbers will constantly be tempted to (also) compete on price, even as some commercial titles will continue to focus on ad-supported models offering free news.’
Publishers will promote mission-based journalism
During global emergencies, promoting messages related to price is not enough: news media will elaborate more on their mission and the quality of their journalism when covering difficult cases like the Russia-Ukrainian War and climate change.
Selective news avoidance continues
The majority of publishers (72%) are concerned about the fact that more users are actively avoiding the news, a trend that was highlighted in the 2022 Digital News Report. In fact, this phenomenon has doubled in some countries since 2017, as ‘many people feel that media coverage is overly negative, repetitive, hard to trust, and leaves people feeling powerless.’
However, how do news leaders plan to combat news avoidance? Research suggests that audiences want journalists to keep covering difficult stories, but at the same time, they seek more inspirational stories, a broader agenda, and more fun’. The top 3 approaches that media companies plan to follow to counter news fatigue include explanatory journalism (94), Q&A formats (87%), and solutions/constructive journalism (73%).
Improving news coverage in climate emergencies
As climate change’s impact becomes more evident, publishers have been rethinking how to cover this story more efficiently. Last year’s report highlighted the need to bring experts into newsrooms. For the year to come, news organizations have made the following changes to improve climate coverage.
Publishers will invest more in TikTok and less in Facebook and Twitter
Publishers are prioritizing video platforms in order to keep engaging younger audiences. In fact, 49% of them are already active on TikTok, despite concerns about Chinese ownership and the security of user data.
As seen in the report, publishers plan to put much more effort into TikTok (+63%), Instagram (+50%), and YouTube (+47%), and pay less attention to Facebook (-30%) and Twitter (-28%).
Concerns rise about legislation on social media platforms
The introduction of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) in the EU will affect tech companies’ activities, from issues like sharing ‘harmful’ content on social media, to conducting unfair competition.
In specific, 54% of media leaders worry that these new rules could make it harder for news organizations to publish stories that governments don’t like. At the same time, around a third are less worried and 14% are not worried at all.
The shift to audio and video continues
In 2023, when it comes to increasing loyalty, publishers will invest more in two core channels that have proved to be effective to news brands: 72% will be putting more resources into podcasts and digital audio, as well as in email newsletters (69%). Since last year, investment in digital video formats (67%) is also up, perhaps due to TikTok’s explosive growth.
AI breakthroughs in journalism
Several media companies have started integrating AI technologies, such as Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make their production processes more efficient, and also to deliver more personalized experiences.
Almost 3 out of 10 companies admit that this is a regular part of their activities, with a further 39% saying they have been conducting experiments in this area.
Furthermore, while we have seen the rise of AI chatbots in recent years, new applications such as ChatGPT and DALL-E 2 offer opportunities for production efficiency and the creation of new types of semi-automated content.
Last but not least, the survey suggested that in 2023:
- Rising costs and weakened distribution networks will lead more newspapers to stop printing daily editions; some also may become digital-only
- As people turn to streaming services, further layoffs are expected in the TV and broadcast news industry
- More publishers will innovate with short-form video storytelling to win audiences on social networks preferred by young people. In 2023, videos get longer in search for sustainable revenue.
- Collectives and micro-companies could be a new trend for 2023, as a more realistic way of doing journalism compared to individual creator businesses. While Substack has helped these outlets to grow their reach, funding and pressure to produce are challenges for single creators
- While it is impossible to predict Elon Musk’s next move at Twitter, there is likely to be 'an enormous gap between rhetoric and delivery as the complexities of running a creative and outspoken global community becomes clearer'.