January 12, 2024
MANILA, Philippines — A new Reuters Institute study indicates growing concerns among media leaders about the prospects of journalism in 2024, with a significant portion troubled by declining referral traffic from social platforms.
The study, “Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2024,” released Thursday, shows that only 47 percent of surveyed editors, CEOs and digital executives were confident about the prospects of journalism in 2024. Meanwhile, 12 percent were not confident, and 41 percent were neutral.
“Stated concerns relate to rising costs, declining advertising revenue, and a slowing in subscription growth – as well as increasing legal and physical harassment,” the report states.
The study finds that up to 48 percent of respondent foresee minimal financial gain for publishers in any licensing agreements with artificial intelligence platforms. Furthermore, 35 percent believe the majority of these revenues will favor larger publishers.
Media leaders are also worried about the declining referral traffic from social platforms, as reported by 63 percent of respondents from 56 countries.
Data from Chartbeat shows a 48 percent decrease in Facebook traffic to news sites in 2023 and a 27 percent drop from X (formerly Twitter). As a result, 77 percent of surveyed publishers plan to emphasize their direct channels in 2024, with 22 percent opting for cost reductions and 20 percent exploring alternative third-party platforms.
Regarding third-party platforms, there’s a notable decrease in focus on Facebook and X, with heightened interest in WhatsApp (+61 net score) and Instagram (+39) following Meta’s broadcast channels expansion for publishers. The interest remains strong in video networks like TikTok (+55) and YouTube (+44), and Google Discover emerges as a significant but fluctuating referral source.
The report foresees a shift from text to audio and video content, predicting the rise of vertical videos targeting younger audiences on platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts.
Visual political podcasts are expected to trend in 2024, with possible shifts towards paid subscriptions.
Content creators on social media platforms, such as TikTok, are outpacing traditional news outlets in follower count.
“This is challenging for many news publishers, partly because video is not their natural skillset, and partly because they offer few opportunities to link back to news websites where they can monetize content. Many traditional news organizations also struggle to get visibility, compared with young creators who are versed in the language and conventions of the platform,” says the report.
The study highlights a change in content creation: a net increase of 64 percent in video production, 52 percent in newsletters, and 47 percent in podcasts, while maintaining the current volume of news articles. This pivot reflects areas where audience and advertiser growth are still evident.
A strategic shift among publishers is also indicated with 77 percent intend to increase investment in direct channels, with 22 percent focusing on cost reduction. Additionally, WhatsApp’s broadcast channels feature is gaining popularity.
A notable prediction from the report is the increasing use of AI tools to tailor news language for specific audiences, enhancing relevance and understanding. Its role in explaining news articles is noted.
A YouGov survey commissioned in the UK reveals that 49 percent of adults have used AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, or Meta AI for experimentation, 37 percent for factual questions, and 28 percent for text drafting. Only eight percent used these tools for news updates.
AI is deemed “very important” for transcription, copyediting, homepage personalization, and creating summaries or headlines. Its applications include summarization, translation, and content generation, with content creation posing the highest reputational risk.
AI newscasters like Maia and Marco on GMA’s sports channels exemplify this trend.
But the new technology’s use in politics, including deep fakes and misleading content, raises concerns, with 70 percent of respondents fearing decreased trust in news.
The study also anticipates copyright disputes between publishers and AI developers using their content for system training.
“This year will see growing pressure from publishers to compensate for any loss of traffic and revenue resulting from AI powerhouses such as OpenAI and Google training their systems on historic data or delivering real-time news,” it notes.
Regarding compensation from AI developers for news content, 48 percent of publishers expect minimal returns, 35 percent foresee major payouts to large media companies, five percent predict even distribution, and 12 percent are unsure.
Despite a 73 percent increase in digital subscriptions, this does not offset the loss in print and advertising revenue. “If they are to survive, media companies will need to wholeheartedly embrace digital, while continuing to squeeze revenue from traditional channels,” the report suggests.
Subscription and memberships are deemed crucial revenue streams for 2024, followed by display advertising, sponsorship, and native advertising. Publishers are considering subscription bundles with non-news content and cheaper, less inclusive versions.
The report highlights a 54 percent effort among publishers to capture audience attention amidst news fatigue, with 37 percent respecting audience time. Strategies include enhanced story explanations, constructive journalism, and human interest stories.
Predictions include hopeful climate change narratives and integrating young non-journalists in storytelling.
The study also notes the rising use of wearables and hearables, potentially replacing or supplementing smartphones.
A divide among news executives is noted on the impact of burgeoning synthetic content on journalism. The Reuters Institute report quotes some executives expressing hope that the rise in unreliable synthetic content could reinforce journalism’s credibility and restore public trust. Conversely, others fear this trend may erode trust in all information, posing risks to global democracies.