The Media Struggle to Stay Relevant in the Age of Tech: The State of the Media Industry in 2023 

According to a recent Reuters report, the media industry and tech companies will be highly correlated in 2023. However, no matter the longevity, the reputation or the size – no publisher is safe. All of them are required to step up their game and give a higher priority to tech if they want to stay relevant in the years ahead.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

reuters media predictions

Illustration: Milica Mijajlovic

Global media landscape in 2023   

The global media industry has evolved into something untameable. It’s under so many different influences – from government pressure to tempting offers from tech platforms to audience fatigue – and it can never seem to win. As soon as it gets on track, something new occurs. 

Among media publishers, those who seemed in a secure position have lost funding worth millions and had to lay off dozens or even hundreds of employees. In such chaos, it’s difficult to predict the year ahead, or even be hopeful of it. 

Still, Reuters tried to do so in its annual report “Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, published in January.

 

According to their data, nearly half (44%) of all surveyed editors, CEOs and digital leaders are, in fact, feeling confident when it comes to 2023. Their concerns are mostly related to rising costs, lower interest from advertisers, and a softening in subscriptions. 

However, what’s common for all surveyed groups, even the optimistic one, is that they expect more layoffs and other cost-cutting measures in the next year. 

Not only that: 

  • More newspapers will stop daily print production this year due to rising print costs and the weakening of distribution networks. 
  • TV and broadcast news will be at the forefront of journalistic layoffs as audiences are hit by news fatigue and competition from streamers. 
  • Public broadcasters, such as the BBC, have started to hint that they may need to turn off TV and radio transmissions over the next decade as consumers migrate to apps and websites. 

On a brighter note, tech platforms are there to save the day – at least when it comes to funding. Apparently, funding from tech platforms has been the fastest-growing income stream in recent years. 

A solid 33% of publishers rely on payments from tech platforms for content licensing (or innovation) as an important revenue stream. 

How big is the tech giants’ role in publishers’ revenue? 

The impact of the tech industry on other industries is growing year after year, and media is no exception to this rule. As a matter of fact, publishers are getting more and more interested in picking the brains of the tech community, either by implementing new technologies in their businesses or negotiating deals behind closed doors. 

What do we mean by that? 

In certain markets, big publishers have negotiated multi-year deals with tech platforms and expect to enjoy the fruits of it in 2023. 

image-1

Behind-closed-doors deals have been done by Facebook and Google in various territories, mostly as a result of government pressure, but have been criticized for favoring large legacy players.

“Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, Reuters

As reported in the Reuters survey, over 300 publishers are getting paid by Google for content in the EU, as well as in Australia and Canada as well. Moreover, Facebook is willing to pay up to $20 million to large publishers for content it includes in its news section. 

The possible consequence of this? 

How about the lack of transparency and conflicts of interest? 

Now, among surveyed publishers, those who are not relying on tech platforms, have high expectations from their subscription models. In fact, 80% of them cite subscription and membership as their most important revenue priority in 2023

This also applies to publishers with a print background, who are also turning their focus to digital subscriptions, memberships and donations. And for a reason: 

  • The Times has added 70,000 subscribers in the last year; 
  • The New York Times subscription revenues rose by more than 10%, heading towards a goal of 15 million subscribers by 2027. 

Another interesting point that this report underlined is that audio consumers are the most loyal customers and spend the most time with the publisher’s products

Other than the mentioned monetisation models, we should also mention paid content income, with around 2/3 of respondents expecting an increase in this category. 

Publishers’ biggest rival is social media 

According to the report, the biggest rival of media publishers is social media. In other words, they need to compete with social media, while still doing their job. As if it wasn’t difficult enough.  

To prove that point, we’ll use the statement of Google’s executive: 

image-1

Around 40% of young people now go to Instagram or TikTok when they are looking for a place to eat, rather than using Google search or Google maps.

“Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, Reuters

That’s why, if publishers want to stay in the game and still be relevant, they don’t need to play harder but to play smarter. 

For example, what we can expect from mainstream publishers in the year ahead is more experimentation with vertical video storytelling. 

social media 2023

As presented in the graph above, publishers are migrating to platforms popular with younger people, especially those younger than 25. 

Considering the fact that nearly 50% of top publishers who took part in this study are actively using TikTok, we can see that their desire to engage with young consumers is bigger than concerns about monetization, data security, and the wider implications of Chinese ownership

Expectations from Twitter in 2023
One huge subject regarding the media industry in 2023 is the future of Twitter, which is pretty unpredictable at this point. Publishers' opinions are divided, but more than half of all respondents (51%) believe it would be bad for journalism if Twitter were to implode.
These were the most common responses:
  1. Twitter has brought many benefits to journalism in finding stories, getting testimonies and accessing information
  2. In my country, Twitter is an important space of freedom to reach audiences that don’t have another source of information.
  3. I will miss it on a personal level, but I think it would actually strengthen serious journalism.
Another question arises – where might journalists go after Twitter? Most likely, to LinkedIn (42%) or Mastodon (10%).

Tech platforms breaking up with publishers   

Remember the aforementioned hopes about tech platforms funding publishers? 

Well, it seems that publishers are actually on thin ice. That is, tech companies are looking to invest in futuristic ideas, and are looking for partners among publishers with a similar vision – but not only on paper. 

Let’s look at the example of Facebook and its parent company Meta. 

image-1

Multi-year deals struck with publishers are starting to expire and Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has reportedly said it would not be renewing current arrangements in the United States, leaving some publishers with a revenue shortfall of tens of millions of dollars.

“Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, Reuters

Why is that so? 

Apparently, less than 3% of what users see on their Facebook feeds are posts with links to news. Therefore, from Facebook’s point of view, it doesn’t make sense to invest in areas that don’t align with user preferences. 

In addition, Meta’s stock decreased by 66% due to, as some staff claim, Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with the Metaverse that’s killing the company. 

So, how are publishers keeping up with tech demands, according to the Reuters survey? 

  • ¾ of them will be putting more resources into podcasts and digital audio (72%) as well as email newsletters (69%); 
  • 67% of them will invest in digital video formats; 
  • Only 4% of them plan to invest in the Metaverse.

Another important factor that may interfere with publishers’ plans for 2023 is introducing legislation for restricting harmful content, as well as the new cookie policy, which will no longer gather third-party cookies. 

image-1

Privacy-related changes threaten to reduce ad revenue further in the short term but are prompting publishers to start initiatives to collect their own (first-party) data that could be the basis for a more sustainable future.

“Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, Reuters

As a result of these changes, more than half of all respondents (54%) are concerned that it will become even more difficult for journalists and news organizations to publish stories that governments don’t like

Embracing the hype around AI 

We’ve entered the year 2023 as ChatGPT being the first thing that comes to mind when we hear “artificial intelligence”. As it turns out, after the initial shock was gone, the journalists became pretty impressed with the potential of this technology. 

And we can only wonder what GPT-4 will look like. 

Needless to say, ChatGPT has undoubtedly changed the narrative for chatbots. Apart from it, the most popular AI tools among journalists are Lensa, MidJourney, DALL-E, Sophi, The Newsroom, and more, along with the inevitable AI transcription and summarization tools. 

However, we should also mention that there are negative practices in the media industry regarding AI, especially deepfakes. 

image-1

It will be easier than ever to create ‘good looking’ and highly plausible multimedia content, but it will also be harder than ever to separate what is real from what is fake, misleading, or doctored.

“Journalism, Media, and Technology Trend Predictions 2023”, Reuters

Nevertheless, AI is a good friend to journalists, as opposed to, for example, Metaverse. The study shows that 28% of respondents use it regularly for their activities, whereas an additional 39% say to be experimenting in this area. 

Now, what are journalists using AI for? 

The biggest benefits of implementing AI into journalism are personalized experiences, production efficiency, and the creation of semi-automated content. 

Expectations from AI regulation in 2023
While there’s an ongoing debate about Section 230 and its expansion to AI-powered algorithm recommendations, in the EU there has also been a discussion about regulation.
The EU is proposing an AI Act that would ban ‘unacceptable’ uses of applications that violate people’s fundamental rights and safety – even if in practice these will be hard to identify and enforce.

We’ll end this article with one of the fascinating implementations of artificial intelligence in the media industry and that is – for copying the most popular anchors. 

Namely, a tech company from South Korea called Deep Brain AI is able to create so-called digital twins of TV news presenters. This has now become a common practice on mainstream channels in Asia, such as MBN and Arirang in Korea and BTV and CCTV in China. 

This technology enables them to save costs while enhancing the presence of anchors highly adored by the audience. The created AI model looks and sounds very realistic, especially since it includes the presenter’s usual phrases and expressions. 

These “digital twins” can be created for any location and have therefore turned out to be very helpful for the purpose of on-demand weather. 

What a world to live in. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated !