10 years ago, Twipe was founded. It was a grim period for newspapers. The mood at the first industry conferences I attended was pessimistic. Today, 10 years later, the industry is booming. Publishers see promising results from their strategies to build sustainable reader revenues. With annual revenues above 20 billion dollars, digital is a significant part of the global newspaper business.
Whilst many challenges remain open, the future is at the same time bright and uncertain.
How will the next 10 years in news look like? How can the news industry contribute to a better world? Most importantly, what can we do together to shape those next 10 years? This is the central theme of our next Digital Growth Summit in September.
Tech giants want a big piece of the cake
In 2031, new technologies will have pervaded our lives. Virtual and Augmented Reality will create new user experiences, mixing our physical world with almost real-life virtual experiences. Mobility will be redefined by self-driving vehicles. Powered by AI, virtual personal assistants and coaches will guide our lives. Virtual currencies may become more mainstream and enable new forms of digital content consumption.
With their unlimited financial resources and fine-grained access to data and consumption patterns, the tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon will do everything possible to leverage those new technologies to establish large news audiences. As Jeff Bezos put it “You need daily products to build a large business”. News happens to be in this category. The strong growth of Apple News in the US, currently already reaching 30% of the US population, is a strong threat in that market. Analysts believe Apple News could reach 19 million subscribers in 2023, generating over 2 billion USD in revenues.
The news industry lacks these deep pockets and holds a partial view on consumer’s data. To ensure future sustainability, the challenge will be, more than ever, to build direct audiences and decrease dependency on tech giants. Building up strong brands, combined with smart use of the tech platforms’ reach, will be a critical factor of success.
Through international collaboration, joint technology investment will be needed to build up product development and engineering capability to match the scale and expertise of the tech giants. Collaboration will also be required to protect publishers’ interests towards tech giants and policy makers. In solidifying the link between publishing and tech, the recent election of Kirstin Skogen Lund, CEO of Schibsted, as President of the European Tech Alliance (EUTA) is a great example. We are very honoured to have Kristin amongst our distinguished speakers at the Digital Growth Summit.
Acid test for the industry as Gen Z matures
With an ageing population becoming more digitally savvy and having a higher income and life expectancy, new opportunities arise to create engaging news consumption experiences. This will especially be true in Western European countries, which already have a long tradition of providing trustworthy, high quality and paid-for news experiences. Netflix, YouTube Premium and Spotify have already well understood this opportunity. They invest heavily in original content like documentaries and establishing exclusive contracts with celebrities like Barack Obama and Harry & Meghan. They target the same wealthy audiences which traditional newspapers have had as paid subscribers for many years. What will and can the newspaper industry do to counter this?
2031 will be the acid test for the industry. By then, the current Generation Z will have become young adults and will be starting up their professional lives and raising young families. For traditional newspapers, these life changing moments are the moments of truth to become companions in their lives. The next 10 years will be key to gradually identify Gen Z and build up a relationship through targeted content discovery. Understanding of habit formation, and investment in related technology, will be a key prerequisite for success.
According to the most recent Reuters Digital News Report, general interest in news has been declining over the past 5 years. Particularly in younger audiences, minorities and partisan groups, interest in news is at low levels. These trends are worrying and require broader action. Younger audiences show clear affinity with organisations that improve the general cause and society. The Climate Change action, led by teenager Greta Thunberg, is a clear example. By better clarifying their purpose and contribution to the broader society, newspapers have an opportunity to engage those audiences. Are the newsrooms of publishers appropriately staffed with enough young people to address these challenges? This important topic will be addressed during the Digital Growth Summit, where we will involve Gen Z contributors to challenge our views.
Truth and trust – the services newspapers provide to help navigate changing lives
During the pandemic, global online content consumption has soared to unprecedented levels. According to a study of 10,000 participants in 5 countries, people spent almost 7 hours consuming content per day. More than ever, people will be living in a flood of information, at a faster pace than today. They will receive messages from an ever-growing list of possible sources. In a world of information overload, they will be looking for guidance. They need to be informed properly to be proficient members of societies, workforce and community. They also need voices, who can translate their individual preferences towards governments and policy makers.
What role can newspapers play in facilitating these important moments in people’s lives? What content will be of interest? How should it be packaged to fit into people’s daily rhythm? Will there be a sufficiently large pool of people willing to pay for news? In a world of evolving technologies and faster change, the inherent needs of people will not change. Humans need quality information to make informed decisions.
Newspapers have an increasingly important role as guardians of truth. Building and fostering trust, safeguarding a variety of opinions and ensuring broad and inclusive coverage, will be the foundations for newsrooms who thrive in 2031. But will that be enough? Is more broader purpose and impact needed? During our deep dive session at the Digital Growth Summit, participants will challenge each other to come up with new ideas and insights.
Content alone is not enough, people want experiences that fit their lives
Digital experiences have become the new normal. Netflix, Spotify, Instagram and many others set the standards of user experience. They continue to raise the bar for others competing for people’s attention.
In the years to come, customer experience will reach a whole new level. Customers expect ease of use, friendly and empathic staff, omnichannel services and competitive prices, but what if customers start to have expectations that go beyond convenience?
How can publishers help consumers’ dreams come true and eliminate the obstacles in their day-to-day lives? What constitutes a subscription offer a reader cannot refuse? Steven Van Belleghem, thought leader and expert in customer centricity will address this during his keynote on the Digital Growth Summit.
Successful publishers in 2031 will have found ways to package their content in new ways for consumption on a multitude of screens and within different contexts. With the growing importance of smartphones, publishers will have to come up with experiences which fit on a smaller screen, during increasingly shorter consumption moments. This will require snackable content, attractive visuals and interactive features.
But larger screens, on laptops or tablets will not disappear. Actually, their importance in media consumption will probably become even bigger in the next decade. Most of the growth of media consumption during the pandemic was actually on Connected TV devices. They fulfil other needs for more engaging or laid-back content interactions. Finite editions will still be very relevant for many people as they answer an important need of being briefed on a regular basis.
Combining strong editorial selection and choices with fine grained personalisation will be a continued success formula. It addresses the never disappearing human needs of information choice, hierarchy and priority, selection and judgment, predictability and serendipity.
More regulation, more data transparency
In 2031 we expect a lot more control from governments and policymakers.
Two big trends have woken up our governments and societies with respect to information delivery. First, the rise of social media platforms has made the distribution of fake news much easier, and at an unprecedented scale. This raises the question whether information distribution via those platforms will continue to proliferate without any form of societal control or governance.
Second, policymakers and the public at large are increasingly concerned about the impact and power of the large tech platforms in our societies. Their algorithms and choices determine to a large extent how our society thinks and what actions originate from that. Their ability to capture at scale data of individuals, from a variety of sources, and combine it into attractive offerings to anyone aiming to influence or target people, has reached the limits of what is considered to be acceptable.
Regulators will impose new laws requiring more transparency on the use of algorithms and limits to unlimited data collection. Looking at what is happening in China, some of the services, now offered by commercial companies in terms of information retrieval and distribution, will be nationalised.
Let’s collaborate to shape the future of news together
To sustain the news industry in 2031 and beyond, we have to find answers, individually and collectively, to some of these questions. During the Digital Growth Summit, we will search together for answers. We will invite participants to dive deeply into key issues and collaborate across company borders. new questions will pop-up which will need answers in the future.
Overall, we aim to build a community of like-minded publishers. Publishers who are determined to build a sustainable, long term business in a collaborative way. Let’s shape the future of our industry together!