5 themes that governed the news industry in 2022

In 2022, the news industry was presented with the opportunity to blend their pandemic world learnings with a return to normality. This resulted in a refreshed outset for publishers. Join us for a rundown of the 5 key themes that we think ruled 2022.

1. Generative AI changing content creation

A touch of recency bias may be creeping in, but generative AI has been widely discussed in 2022. From Dall-E to ChatGPT, publishers and punters have experimented with generating both serious and silly content. Publishers have already begun to use generative content on their platforms but also further introduce their own generative AI models. Gannett built a new tool, Localizer, to automate the creation of hyper local stories based on local health data or real estate transactions. Elsewhere The Guardian once again published a segment of an article written by ChatGPT and Cosmopolitan launched the first world’s first magazine cover created by Dall-E in June.

Source: Cosmopolitan

Whilst generative AI offers vast potential, it also comes with risks. Thomas Baekdal wrote an excellent thread asking how journalism and generation will struggle to work hand in hand. Questions arise around the accountability of these generative robots, the quality of their outputs and also who we decide to train them. Their future usages will be an ethical and journalistic move to follow heading into 2023.

As Uncle Ben put it to Peter Parker in various iterations of Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility”.  

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2. Print prices causing digital transition progression

2022 represented a milestone year for the new role of print. In the face of increasing costs, more publishers moved to cut or reduce print days and move their content over to fully digital platforms.

In Europe, Danish tabloid BT announced that from 2022 they will be moving over to a fully digital operation. Meanwhile in the USA, Alabama Media Group, part of Advance Local, announced that they are moving to fully cut print days in 2023. In preparation for this, they already launched a new digital-only edition The Lede and upgraded their ePaper so subscribers still benefit from a quality experience. Elsewhere in the US, Atlanta-Journal Constitution were the subject of speculation in September when Saporta Report claimed the publisher will reduce to weekend-only print. Even though this move remains unconfirmed, it shows widespread discussions appear to be taking place around print.

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Others moved to make their print smarter. Schibsted adopted AI to make print production and distribution processes more efficient and sustainable. Machine learning algorithms calculate how many papers they will sell and only print as needed. AI also ensures papers go to the right people to sell them and provides the least polluting journeys for papers to arrive at sales points. With The Telegraph CEO Nick Hugh confirming that the British publishing giant will continue to print 7 days a week for the next decade, print looks like it’ll be here to stay, but this doesn’t mean it can’t get smarter.

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3. Web3 and NFTs become genuine options

Last year, we identified NFTs as a trend starting to take off in the news industry. Whilst 2021 may have been the year of experimentation, 2022 has become the year of consolidation (for some). Publishers have started to use NFTs not just for revenue generation, but for community building. 20 Minutes leveraged NFTs to create the world’s first Web3 magazine 20 Mint. The project brought together NFT enthusiasts and 20 Minutes‘ newsroom via a Discord channel to take a magazine from concept to concrete. TIME magazine became “experts” in the NFT world. The publisher are now playing the role of leader in their NFKey project with Salesforce and Mastercard. Le Parisien even launched NFTs to offer subscriptions with credentials stored on the blockchain for NFT holders.

Elsewhere in the Web3 sphere, micropayments have re-entered the mainstream journalism debate. As publishers are looking for new revenue sources and consumers are looking to cut costs, it is natural for this discussion to re-open and with platforms like Twitter alternative Post offering micropayment potential, they are appearing evermore like an option. But as Brian Morrissey argued in a recent edition of The Rebooting, micropayments seem to make sense for everybody but publishers. With times changing do publishers need to take the plunge? 2023 will tell us more.

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4. Publishers flirting with their ad-ex

Whilst 2020 and 2021 were the years of subscription, 2022 has seen ad revenue take centre stage in discussions. Subscription growth steadied as consumers felt the pinch, so publishers were forced to look elsewhere to continue their digital revenue growth. With publishers in a strong position with their harvests of first party data and the traditional relationship between publishers and advertisers in the print world, ads became the go-to fallback option.

In the face of declining revenues and The New York Times takeover, The Athletic, previously proudly ad-free, introduced ads to their app and website from September. Also in the US, Lee Enterprises reached a digital inflection point in advertising in 2022, with digital ads now bringing in 51% of overall advertising revenue. In the UK, publishers learnt to work smarter with ads. Through experimentation, The Telegraph found that they generated greater revenue displaying just 1 premium ad instead of 5 other ads. Reach PLC’s Mantis ad-safety tool also proved its potential suspending ads to ensure maximum sensitivity following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Whilst there have been widespread discussions around ads, at the Digital Growth Summit an overwhelming number said they did not plan to focus on ad revenue in 2023. Finding the balance between ad revenue and user experience will be an ongoing challenge into 2023.

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5. Audio acceleration

One area that did see overwhelming support in an in-room poll at the Digital Growth Summit was the importance of audio for the next 5-10 years. Audio for publishers has been growing in popularity, and in 2022 audio became a strategic revenue generation tool.

Slow news start-up Tortoise pivoted its model to put audio ahead of their written content following growth in December 2021. This was a natural move with the success of their podcasts. Now, listeners are able to access podcasts through Apple‘s Podcast subscription tool without subscribing to Tortoise itself. NRC chose to fully paywall their audio content by adding a subscription wall to their NRC Audio app following its growth in popularity. As an app which has brought the publisher in a younger demographic, the move is a chance to push commitment from these listeners. These moves could just be the beginning for podcast subscription growth and it’ll be exciting to see if other publishers join them in 2023.

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No matter what trends come to the forefront in 2023, rest assured we will be on top of them in our weekly Future of News blog posts. Keep up to date by subscribing to our weekly newsletter here.

Matthew Lynes
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe

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