European Federation of Journalists

What to expect for journalism and media in 2021, according to Reuters Institute

Credit: Newman, N. (2021). Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2021. Reuters Institute. Question: Q4. How has coronavirus affected plans for digital change in your company? N = 234.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has released a report titled “Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2021”, which draws from the major events of 2020 and their disruptive effect on journalism. This outlines what to expect as a result of rapid digital change following the Covid-19 pandemic in a new world “where the physical and virtual coexist in new ways.”

A key finding is that the pandemic has forced us to rethink where the limits of free speech should lie for giant tech platforms. According to the report, we should expect a more interventionist approach on harmful and unreliable content as lives are at stake. By the end of 2021, journalism is likely to become more separated from the rest of the information presented on the internet.

The report predicts that newsrooms will place more value on journalists who specialise in specific subject areas, particularly content of interest to younger audiences such as the environment, and can explain complex issues embedded in them to the general public. Reuters has observed that companies that invest in specialist resources and talent before crises hit gain better reputations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is found to be the most important enabling technology for journalism to drive smarter personalised recommendations, greater efficiency in the packaging of news amidst information overload, and automatic translations. While some are embracing next-generation technologies, a 65% majority of survey respondents are wary that AI could exacerbate the gap between giant media companies and smaller organisations with little capacity to invest in long-term research and development, and fear being left behind. Transparency with algorithms will be key to ensure better communication and fairness when developing better strategies.

While it is reported that people are willing to pay for high-quality trustworthy journalism, leading to the growth of entrepreneurial journalism, this growth in income is not sustainable. Publishers will be more inclined toward subscription or membership models and e-commerce rather than releasing free content to generate revenue amidst cost-cutting and closures. The report highlights that 2021 will challenge news organisations to come up with innovative ways of retaining subscribers while contending other subscription segments such as video streaming during this economic downturn.

The full report, written by Senior Research Associate Nic Newman based on the input of 234 digital leaders from 43 countries, can be found here.