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Journalism trends for 2023: Analysis from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report

The Reuters Institute digital news report has been going for just over a decade now and has become an essential indicator to what is going on in the journalism and media industry and what is to come. At the Publishing Show, Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute, outlined key trends he thinks we will see in the industry and how media organisations are looking to innovate and change to keep up with the current pressures and demands. 

For an overview of the key points from the Publishing Show, see our highlights here. 

Adapting to the current climate 

The cost-of-living crisis has impacted practically everyone and every industry in some way and journalism is no exception. Print costs are rising and with less people purchasing physical print copies, the trend for a reduction in these titles looks set to continue.  

The knock-on effect of this is that companies will continue to have to find ways to cut costs and consolidate what they have which often means layoffs. And this isn’t just within print paper editorial teams – digital born news publishers such as Reach plc and News Corp have also faced trouble and have been forced to cut their workforce as a result. 

Publishers are not optimistic about the year ahead as a result of all this. A survey of 303 media leaders showed that less than half were confident about their business prospects for 2023. Other factors like inflation and a post-Covid slump also play a part here.  

Importance of subscriptions 

Ignoring all the doom and gloom, one thing that publishers do remain optimistic about is around subscriptions. 68% of publishers surveyed thought that subscription revenue would continue to rise despite the current economic climate and people having less money to spend. The way to encourage audiences to take this out is via a bundled subscription. This will pay more over time and they are less likely to cancel as a result. You can also encourage them via price cuts and special offers, too. 

In such tough times, quality news matters to people and this normally means they are happier to take out a subscription and pay to have it. This is why subscriptions is the most important revenue stream for most publishers (80%) ahead of display advertising (75%) and native advertising (58%). However, having diverse revenue streams is likely to be the overall trend in the industry. 

Winning back audiences 

The last two or three years haven’t made for the best reading/viewing and that has been reflected by audiences. 46% of people surveyed now avoid the news which is up from 24% in 2017. 43% say there is too much politics and Covid in the news while 36% say that news has a negative effect on their mood. This increase has publishers concerned, with over 70% worried about news avoidance/fatigue. 

That means that new approaches need to be made to tackle this and explanatory journalism seems to be the preferred method. 94% of publishers surveyed said this was how they would counter this issue, with Q&A formats second on 87% and solutions/constructive journalism back on 73%. The last of these seems to be gathering particular momentum with the Solutions Journalism Network collecting over 14,000 examples of solutions reporting from across the globe. It’s also an approach that the younger generation seem to appreciate and engage with more, too. 

Embracing new technology 

Vertical video and short-form video content has seen a rapid rise in the last few years and is quickly becoming a popular form of storytelling for journalists. Most publishers are embracing it and using it as a way to reach that under-25 audience, which has shifted away from social media apps like Facebook and Twitter and towards TikTok and Instagram.  

Most newsrooms are also now using AI to make the editorial process more efficient. AI transcription tools are common and 67% of publishers surveyed are using AI to some extent for recommendations and to help deliver better personalisation to their audiences. This technology will only become more commonplace as time goes on and publishers must embrace this and talk not about digital transformation but about content transformation instead.  

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