The Reuters Institute for the Study Of Journalism recently released its Digital News Report which focused on the current environment within which publishers are operating and how they are connecting with readers.

The report analysed the impact of artificial intelligence and it could potentially alter the way information is shared, consumed and created.

Broadly speaking, the research shows that social media platforms such as Facebook and X are slowly but surely moving away from traditional news-related content especially when it comes to referrals back to publishers. As text consumption decreases, there is the rise of visual content in the form of varying-length videos that are watched on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

The report will come as a revelation, especially with the realisation that the democratisation of the internet has shaped how content is created as the perception of creating content for like-minded individuals and friends has changed to creating content for anyone and everyone. The opening up of a global audience is giving rise to a glaring need to rethink how engagement in the digital realm is to take place and how publishers can stay relevant.

Key takeaways:

  1. There is a media funding crisis. Rising costs, falling revenues and decreasing flow of traffic (to the website and social media platforms) have resulted in media entities shutting down, downsizing and cutting costs. The worrisome part is all of this has exposed the media to government and business entities both of which are influencing media ideologies and what constitutes content.
  2. There is a massive chasm between what consumers want and what publishers are providing. This is where we are seeing the rise of ‘individual journalism’ where more and more people are taking to the digital realm to create their ‘own’ news. This means that as consumers watch individualistic takes, media entities result in becoming irrelevant or weaken as traffic falls.
  3. Video content is rising. YouTube is used by almost a 1/3 of the global sample (6 continents, 47 markets) and TikTok users outdo X (formerly known as Twitter). This does not mean text is irrelevant but that video is increasingly being consumed.
  4. The rise of video is due to 3 major reasons:
    • If you can see it, you can believe it. Videos by individuals who are not necessarily associated with a media entity are believed more as they are seen as being unedited and free from any bias.
    • Easy to consume. Videos are convenient in terms of being delivered especially on platforms that you follow or are subscribed to.
    • The varied perspectives. People are tired of the same old faces, the usual TV show hosts, authors, and columnists. This is also fuelled by a deep mistrust of what is seen as ‘liberal’ agendas which is giving rise to more right-wing perspectives.
  1. Publishers are caught in between technological and behaviour changes which means Meta and Google are also facing challenges in a realm where AI is shaping the news ecosystem.
  2. With advertising revenues on the decline, it appears only a minority (17% of the global sample) are willing to pay for news and the majority (57%) would not consider paying anything.
  3. The rise of alternative voices is prevalent on sites such as TikTok and Instagram whereas mainstream media and popular journalists are more likely to use Facebook and X but still face stiff competition. There is however a difference emerging between journalists and online personalities.
  4. There is a difference between staying informed (which is when people want the news to provide facts) and learning (where people want to be educated or updated). While the need to remain informed is there, clearly it is no longer enough as people want an explanation of the information being put out as well as an analysis.
  5. While there is a sense of wariness when it comes to AI, there seems to be some level of acceptance in terms of experiences using news and access to information. There is resistance to the use of AI concerning public-facing content and sensitive information. There is an overall consensus that human beings should be present and complete automation is off limits.
  6. Due to low trust in the media, publishers will need to be extremely careful how AI is used to avoid losing trust on the part of the consumer completely. It is clear that when emotion, judgment and connection is needed, AI will not be accepted and a human being will have to be at the front and centre.
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