Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2021

Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2021

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) has published their predictions for 2021, following on from a year of COVID-19, and rapid technological and societal transformation.

A survey of media leaders has shown the impact of COVID-19 on the media industry and spotted trends to watchsuch as digital and distributed newsrooms, a renewed focus on subscription revenue streams, AI and first-party data insight.

Key findings in the report, authored by Nic Newan, reveal the changing perspectives of media leaders, including that:

  • Three-quarters (76%) of the sample of editors, CEOs, and digital leaders say COVID-19 has accelerated their plans for digital transition. Business plans include more remote working and a faster switch to reader-focused business models.
  • Driving digital subscriptions was rated an important or very important revenue focus for 76% of our sample, ahead of both display and native advertising. The reverse was true when we last asked the question in 2018. E-commerce and events were the next most important priorities, with revenue diversification set to be a key theme. Publishers say that, on average, four different revenue streams will be important or very important this year.
  • Publishers seem to have a bit more confidence in government support than this time last year. More than a third (36%) felt that policy interventions might help – twice as many as 12 months ago. Almost half (47%) felt interventions would make no difference and a further 17% said they could make things worse.
  • Traditional notions of journalistic impartiality and objectivity are coming under pressure in an era of greater political and social polarisation – with more partial news outlets set to launch this year. Despite this, the vast majority (88%) of those surveyed, which includes a large number of senior editors, say that the concept of impartiality matters more than ever. At the same time, almost half (48%) agree that there are some political and social issues where it makes no sense to be neutral.

"The pandemic has comprehensively made the case for faster change towards an all-digital future."

The report's findings are drawn from a closed survey of 234 people in December 2020. Participants, drawn from 43 countries, were selected because they held senior positions (editorial, commercial, or product) in traditional or digital-born publishing companies and were responsible for aspects of digital or wider media strategy. The results reflect this strategic sample of select industry leaders, not a representative sample.