Subscriptions, subsidies and pressure on platforms: media trends in 2019

Subscription and membership models will become the key revenue focus for the news industry this year, according to a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

Quality news will need to be further subsidised, while use of social media will decline among news outlets and social media users alike. These are the findings in the annual ’Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions’ report for 2019, a survey of 200 media executives, senior editors and digital leaders across 29 countries.

Over half (52%) of respondents expect subscription and membership to be the main revenue focus in 2019, compared with 27% for display advertising. However, as more publishers chase a small group of people willing to pay for online news, they may find that such funding models have their limitations. There is also growing acceptance that some types of quality news provision may need to be subsidised, with 29% of survey respondents expecting to see significant help from non-profits in 2019 and 18% expecting tech platforms to contribute more.

Meanwhile, the news industry is refocusing attention away from Facebook, with less than half (43%) saying the platform will be ’important’ or ’extremely important’ in 2019. Consumers are also expected to leave social networks, in part becoming conscious of ’wasting time online’. This will lead to more uptake of tools for digital detox and news organisations’ emphasis on providing more ’meaningful’ content.

The report also finds:

  • There will be renewed focus on trust indicators for news, such as ’news nutrition labels’ to help consumers decide what and whom to trust.
  • The problem of disinformation will continue to shift to closed networks and community groups, therefore becoming harder to control.
  • 78% of respondents believe investing in artificial intelligence will help secure the future of journalism.
  • 75% say audio is becoming a more important part of their content and commercial strategies.
  • 78% believe voice-activated technologies will have a significant impact on how audiences access content.
  • Slow news will become a theme - but there are questions over how many will join and pay.
  • The rise of paywalls is shutting more people off from quality news and could lead to news avoidance and adoption of ’paywall-blocking software’.

Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute and lead author of the report, said: ’This will be the year when the regulation of platform companies starts to bite following growing concern about misinformation, privacy and market power. Meanwhile, the spread of false, misleading and extreme content will continue to undermine democracies around the world, with polarising elections in India, Indonesia and Europe likely flashpoints.’


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