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Six media trends to watch in 2018


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At Harvard we spend a lot of time watching how the media landscape is shifting and thinking about what that means for our clients. Here are our six biggest media trends to watch in 2018.

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Six media trends to watch in 2018

  2. 2. SIX TRENDS WE’RE WATCHING IN 2018 The big themes occupying the minds of editors and journalists (Plus some thoughts on what we, as communications people, need to do in response)
  3. 3. TREND 1 The fall-out from 2016 continues Our hypothesis is that 2016 was to the tech sector what 2008 was for the financial sector – a once-in-a-generation, maybe even a once-in-a-century, crisis that has up-ended expectations and transformed what we thought to be possible.
  4. 4. 2017: THE POLITICAL-MEDIA-TECH ELITE POST-MORTEM The Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump led to an unparalleled orgy of soul-searching amongst the political-media- tech establishment. It prompted a post-mortem into what happened (as Hillary Clinton termed it), how it happened, why it happened, and what we can do to make sure it never happens again This has completely changed attitudes towards the tech sector among the elite. The narrative around tech is now much more sceptical than it was just a few years ago. Interestingly, consumer sentiment is still very positive towards tech brands, so this change seems to be restricted to an elite, opinion-former audience.
  5. 5. POLITICS: BREXIT & TRUMP DIGITAL AD FRAUD / INEFFECTIVENESS TROLLING/ BULLYING EXTREMIST CONTENT AUTOMATION/ JOB DESTRUCTION CORPORATION TAX / OVERSEAS CASH DIVERSITY / EQUAL PAY PRIVACY / SURVEILLANCE SECURITY RUSSIA Part of this is because of the crystallisation of a series of issues, all with tech at their centre, which have come into focus in the past year or two. These issues overlap in many ways, so that for instance the concern over social media’s impact on Brexit, Trump and our political discourse in general is linked to prior concerns over cyberbullying, trolling and even radicalisation of young people online… Again, most of these issues are mostly of concern to elite, opinion-former audiences in the media and political spheres, but they are starting to trickle down into the worries of everyday citizens too. OVERLAPPING ISSUES
  6. 6. TECHNOLOGICAL, POLITICAL AND REGULATORY RESPONSES STILL ONGOING The responses to these issues from governments and tech firms are still only in the early days. If 2016 was the year of the crisis, and 2017 was the year of the post-mortem, then perhaps 2018 will be the year of action, when some of these issues will get addressed.
  8. 8. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ Be sensitive to the changing tech narrative ■ Prepare for greater scrutiny ■ Be part of the solution
  9. 9. TREND 2 Fake news narrative continues to gather pace and undermines trust in incumbent media and politics
  10. 10. FAKE NEWS ISN’T NEW – IT’S JUST TURBOCHARGED 1986 2016 Fake news isn’t an entirely new phenomenon of course. We’ve always had “Freddie Starr ate my hamster”-style made-up stories. What’s been different over the last couple of years is that we’ve had new channels that can spread false information faster and further than ever before, and a politician prepared to exploit that and indulge in it himself.
  11. 11. DECLINE IN TRUST IN UK MEDIA, ESPECIALLY SINCE BREXIT Source: Reuters Institute for Digital Journalism But this fake news narrative has helped create an increased climate of mistrust of the UK’s mainstream media. The stats show that trust in the UK media fell from 50% to 43% in a single year, between 2016-17. Presumably this was due to people feeling that the media didn’t necessarily report Brexit truthfully or accurately. But when the Grenfell Tower fire happened in June, it also became another focal point for mistrust and anger against mainstream media, who were accused of ignoring or misreporting what happened
  12. 12. DECLINE IN POWER OF PRINT MEDIA IN UK? The surprise result of the June general election also led some influential figures from the world of journalism to question whether the mainstream print media – which has been so dominant for so long in the UK – has lost its power. We’re a little sceptical about this argument – the tabloids were crucial in swinging the 2015 general election and the 2016 EU referendum . . . So have they really lost their power in the space of a year?
  13. 13. BUT UK OUTLETS STILL HIGHLY TRUSTED WORLDWIDE… Source: Trusting News Project Report 2017; Reuters Institute for Digital Journalism
  14. 14. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ The value of trusted media outlets has never been higher ■ Rebuilding trust will take time ■ There’s an openness to new voices and new perspectives
  15. 15. TREND 3 The pivot to video, amid search for new formats that work best online The “pivot to video” means that media companies are moving away from text-based news towards producing hours and hours of video content instead. This has been a particularly big trend in the US but it’s starting to creep over to the UK too. Many publishers have been investing massively in their video production capabilities, while laying off print journalists. But this approach has been widely mocked because the route to making money from it
  16. 16. 1. Lay off most of your writers, who produce stories fast and cheaply for your own website 2. Produce more video, which is vastly more expensive and time consuming and which only finds an audience on other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube 3. ????? 4. PROFIT THE “PIVOT TO VIDEO” HAS BECOME A JOKE, EVEN WHILE IT’S BEING PURSUED
  17. 17. CHASING AD BUDGETS AND READER TRAFFIC Daily video views on Facebook, globally 2014: 1bn 2015: 8bn The reason media companies are doing this, of course, is to chase advertisers’ budgets. Social media firms charge more for video ads than static digital ads, so they are desperately encouraging brands to invest in video. Brands’ ad budgets are increasingly shifting towards video – 56% of ad money went into video in 2017, up from 52% in 2015. Media companies presumably see the boom in video consumption – on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter and everywhere else – and think they have to get in on the act.
  18. 18. NEWS CONSUMERS ARE STILL UNCONVINCED? Source: Reuters Institute for Digital Journalism The only problem is audiences don’t seem to want it. When you ask people how they want to consume their news, the vast majority still say text, not video…
  19. 19. PART OF A BROADER EXPERIMENTATION WITH NEW FORMATS We see this pivot to video really within the context of a much broader experimentation phase that media companies are going through. They’re trying to work out what sort of formats work for publishing news online. From documentaries, to GIFS, to Twitter threads, to long reads…
  20. 20. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ Video is important, but don’t be a slave to it ■ Experiment with formats for owned content ■ Create different kinds of content for earned media
  21. 21. TREND 4 Monetising beyond ads This is about how media companies are trying to make money, beyond ad revenue alone. Our hypothesis here is that the rush to chase traffic and ad revenue has acted as a perverse incentive to media companies. It’s caused them to dumb down their content and tempted them towards clickbait and stories that will go viral, even if they aren’t important or valuable by the traditional standards of newsworthiness. Now they’re trying to escape that trap.
  22. 22. TRAFFIC AND AD REVENUE AS A PERVERSE INCENTIVE "News is being reduced to a three-letter word: it's either OMG, LOL or WTF.“ Nick Robinson, BBC An old newspaper catchphrase was, “If it bleeds, it leads”—that is, if someone got hurt or killed, that’s the top story. In the age when Facebook supplies us with a disproportionate amount of our daily news, a more- appropriate catchphrase would be, “If it’s outrageous, it’s contagious.” Christopher Mims, WSJ
  23. 23. AD REVENUE ISN’T BEING CAPTURED BY PUBLISHERS ANYWAY 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 % take of global digital ad revenue, 2018 Google and Facebook Everyone else Source: Group M estimates
  24. 24. SUBSCRIPTIONS BECOME A SAFE HARBOUR 75k 800k 2016 20172016 2017 Members 300k $81m $59m $64m $86m Print ads Digital subs Print ads Digital subs Source: company data Media companies have realised that chasing ad revenue is not just a losing game: it’s entirely the wrong game to be in. It’s a game they can never win, no matter what they do. That’s why one of the big trends we saw in 2017 was the flight to subscriptions as a safe harbour for media companies They’ve realised the only way they can guarantee their future is to turn into subscription-based businesses. We think we’ll see more of this in 2018.
  25. 25. MEDIUM TRIES “APPLAUSE” AS A NEW MONETISATION AND POPULARITY METRIC The other aspect of this is how publishers identify popularity and reward their writers, if they’re not going to rely solely on web traffic and viral metrics like social shares. One thing we saw in 2017 was the blogging platform Medium develop a new feature called “applause”, so you applaud an article rather than liking it. They use that metric to work out how they reimburse their bloggers, so the more applause you get the bigger the cut of subscription revenue you receive. We think we’ll see more innovations of this kind in 2018 as media firms try to work out new ways of operating.
  26. 26. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ Retrenchment to “traditional” news values ■ Subscription-based outlets might be better long-term bets ■ More experimentation to come in surfacing and rewarding good content
  27. 27. TREND 5 The rise and rise of robo-reporters Media firms are investing lots into AI tools. News pages are full of easy-to-write, stats- based stories that don’t require much research or creativity. These could easily be delegated to robots so that human reporters can focus on writing the more interesting and in-depth pieces.
  28. 28. COVERING HIGH SCHOOL SPORT IN THE WASHINGTON POST This story from the Washington Post was actually written by a robot or an algorithm – not a human.
  29. 29. AUTOMATED LOCAL NEWS STORIES IN THE UK Google is funding a Press Association project to develop similar algorithms in the UK, supplying stats-based stories to local newspapers around the country
  30. 30. MORE AUTOMATION TO COME? Guardian Media Group to launch new £42 million venture capital fund – GMG Ventures
  31. 31. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ Stats stories become automated ■ Value lies in human reporting and investigations ■ Publishers focus on depth, not breadth, of coverage?
  32. 32. TREND 6 B2B influencers are the new journalists, B2C influencers are the new celebrities
  33. 33. INFLUENCERS ARE POWERFUL – AND THEY KNOW IT 29.7m Zoella 22.9m Ksi 17.8m Joe Sugg 15.2m Caspar Lee 14.4m Alfie Deyes 9.2m Tanya Burr 7.4m Dan Middleton 6.8m Louise Pentland 3.7m Iskra Lawrence 2.3m Dina Torkia 1.5m The Sun Source: YouTube, Instagram and Twitter
  34. 34. THE INFLUENCER INDUSTRY HAS PROFESSIONALISED… CAVEAT EMPTOR Given the reach these consumer influencers have, it’s no wonder this has become a professionalised industry. They have agents. There are advertising rules around how they promote products. And when YouTube changes its rules, influencers start complaining because it threatens their livelihoods. They also charge tens of thousands of pounds just to mention your product. So this is not a space to move into without help and without knowing what you’re doing.
  35. 35. B2B TECH INFLUENCERS SHAPE NARRATIVES 230k followers 20k followers 73k followers 10k followers 6k followers 49k followers 14k followers 12k followers 71k followers 55k followers 243k followers 56k followers On the B2B side, these influencers have become hugely important in their own right. Some of these tech influencers have Twitter audiences that rival or even outweigh the circulations of newspapers. They can talk to each other, share attitudes and ideas, and shape opinion on issues that is then reflected in mainstream media coverage too.
  36. 36. WHAT THIS MEANS ■ Influencer relations needs to be as planned and strategic as media relations ■ If you don’t pay, you won’t get very far with consumer influencers ■ Take advice, be cautious, test and learn
  37. 37. RECAP 1. The fall-out from 2016 continues 2. Fake news narrative continues to gather pace and undermines trust in incumbent media and politics 3. The pivot to video, amid search for new formats that work best online 4. Monetising beyond ads 5. The rise and rise of robo-reporters 6. B2B influencers are the new journalists, B2C influencers are the new celebrities