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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.