19 Aug 2022 Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2022
By Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
2022 will be a year of careful consolidation for a news industry that has been both disrupted and galvanised by the drawn-out COVID-19 crisis. Both journalists and audiences have, to some degree, been “burnt out” by the relentless intensity of the news agenda, alongside increasingly polarised debates about politics, identity, and culture. This could be the year when journalism takes a breath, focuses on the basics, and comes back stronger.
In many parts of the world, audiences for news media have been falling throughout 2021 – not an ideal situation at a time when accurate and reliable information has been so critical to people’s health and security. A key challenge for the news media in 2022 is to re-engage those who have turned away from news – as well as to build deeper relationships with more regular news consumers.
Generational change will also continue to be a key theme, leading to more internal soul-searching in newsrooms over diversity and inclusion, about emerging agendas such as climate change and mental health, and about how journalists should behave in social media.
On the business side, many traditional news organisations remain relentlessly focused on faster digital transformation as rising newsprint and energy costs look to make print unsustainable in some countries. Charging for online news is the end-destination for many, but expect subscription fatigue to limit progress, especially if economic conditions worsen.
After a period where digital advertising revenue has leaked away to giant platforms, publishers have an opportunity to secure better results this year. Tighter privacy rules limiting third-party data, along with concerns about misinformation, have already started to swing the tide back towards trusted brands, but advertising remains a competitive and challenging business, and not every publisher will thrive.
Meanwhile the talk of platform regulation becomes real this year as the EU and some national governments try to exercise more control over big tech. However, next generation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies, and the metaverse (virtual or semi-virtual worlds) are already creating a new set of challenges for societies as well as new opportunities to connect, inform, and entertain.
How do media leaders view 2022?
- Almost six out of ten of our respondents (59%) say their revenue has increased over the last year, despite the fact that more than half (54%) also reported static or falling page views. Publishers report that digital advertising has boomed with more people buying online, while subscription revenue has also increased.
- Three-quarters (75%) of our sample of editors, CEOs, and digital leaders say they are confident about their company’s prospects for 2022, though fewer (60%) say the same about the future of journalism. Concerns relate to the polarisation of societies, attacks on journalists and the free press, and the financial sustainability of local publications.
- More publishers plan to push ahead with subscription or membership strategies this year, with the majority of those surveyed (79%) saying this will be one of their most important revenue priorities, ahead of both display and native advertising. At the same time, many respondents (47%) worry that subscription models may be pushing journalism towards super-serving richer and more educated audiences and leaving others behind.
- Publishers say that, on average, three or four different revenue streams will be important or very important this year. Almost three in ten (29%) expect to get significant revenue from tech platforms for content licensing or innovation, with 15% looking to philanthropic funds and foundations – both up on last year. Others are hoping to restart events businesses that stalled during the COVID-19 crisis.
- With more regulation in the air over both the market power and social impact of tech companies, there are mixed expectations that government actions will improve journalism’s prospects. While around four in ten (41%) felt that policy interventions might help, more than a third (34%) thought interventions would make no difference, and a quarter (25%) said they could make things worse.
- Publishers say they’ll be paying less attention to Facebook (-8 net score) and Twitter (-5) this year and will instead put more effort into Instagram (+54), TikTok (+44), and YouTube (+43), all networks that are popular with younger people. At the same time many news organisations will be tightening their rules on how journalists should behave on social media. In our survey most editors and managers feel that journalists should stick to reporting the news on Twitter and Facebook this year and worry that expressing more personal views could undermine trust.
- As the impact of climate change becomes more pressing, the news industry remains uncertain about how to deal with this complex and multi-faceted story. Only a third of those surveyed (34%) rated general coverage as good, even if they felt their own coverage (65%) was better. News editors say it is hard to get mainstream audiences to take notice of a story that moves slowly and can often make audiences feel depressed. In turn, this means it’s hard to make the case to hire the necessary specialist journalists to explain and bring it to life.
- In terms of innovation, we can expect a back to basics approach this year. Two-thirds of our sample (67%) say they will spend most time iterating and improving existing products, making them quicker and more effective. Only a third (32%) said the priority would be launching new products and brand extensions. Publishers say the biggest barriers to innovation are the lack of money, due to wider economic challenges, and difficulty in attracting and retaining technical staff.
- Specifically, publishers say that they will be putting more resource into podcasts and digital audio (80%) as well as email newsletters (70%), two channels that have proved effective in increasing loyalty as well as attracting new subscribers. By contrast, just 14% say they’ll be investing in voice and just 8% in creating new applications for the metaverse such as VR and AR.
- Media companies continue to bet on artificial intelligence as a way of delivering more personalised experiences and greater production efficiency. More than eight-in-ten of our sample say these technologies will be important for better content recommendations (85%) and newsroom automation (81%). More than two-thirds (69%) see AI as critical on the business side in helping to attract and retain customers.
Other possible developments in 2022
- Media companies will get bigger this year through a wave of acquisitions as they look to add scale and value to their subscription or advertising businesses. Some high-profile digital-born companies will come under new ownership.
- The growing power of the “creator economy” will continue to touch journalism this year directly and indirectly. Creator content – think celebrities and influencers – will take attention from news media, while more platform features that enable charging for content will open up opportunities for individual journalists and co-operatives.
- Short-form social video will make a comeback off the back of creator innovation in youth-based social networks. Expect publishers to adopt more of these techniques in 2022, along with the growth of streaming platforms such as Twitch, contributing to a new “pivot to video”.
- Watch for more high-profile examples of journalist burnout as the stresses of the relentless news cycle, remote working, and rising authoritarianism take their toll. Media companies will explore new ways to offer support this year.
- Donald Trump’s new social network, codenamed Truth Social, will inevitably attract headlines when it launches early in 2022. Expect this to be a focus for hate speech, hackers, and other disrupters
- This could be the year when publishers start working together more to counter audience and platform challenges. Look out for joint lobbying on policy, more advertising and common login initiatives, joint investigations, and more content sharing too.
- In tech, expect a proliferation of new devices including VR headsets and smart glasses, building blocks for the metaverse – as well as new ways of interacting at work. The hype over cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will continue to build even if practical benefits remain hard to discern.
Source: Executive Summary. Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022 by Nic Newman. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Nic Newman is Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, where he has been lead author of the annual Digital News Report since 2012. He is also a consultant on digital media, working actively with news companies on product, audience, and business strategies for digital transition. He has produced a media and journalism predictions report for the last 13 years. Nic was a founding member of the BBC News Website, leading international coverage as World Editor (1997–2001). As Head of Product Development (2001–10) he led digital teams, developing websites, mobile, and interactive TV applications for all BBC Journalism sites.