Predicting the Media Landscape: What Lies Ahead for 2018


In an era of “fake news” is journalism at last fighting back? Taking a look back at 2017 it would appear so. Indeed, it would seem that the shocks to the media industry over the past few years are helping many organizations focus once again on quality news and investigations–in part to distinguish themselves from the mass of other, often dubious, information online.

2017 proved to be a vintage year full of reporting that made a real difference–from the The New York Times exposé on Harvey Weinstein to the ProPublica investigations of Facebook, and the Paradise Papers investigations. In terms of revenue, however, it was a mixed year that saw stronger titles pulling ahead while others faltered. The shift to reader revenue is well underway, but will not work for everyone. So what lies ahead for journalism and the media in 2018?

The report Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018, published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism with the support of Google’s Digital News Initiative, holds some clues. Based on survey responses from 194 digital leaders from 29 countries, it lays out the challenges and opportunities expected for the news industry in the year ahead.

The battle with the platforms

Concerns expressed by the respondents include increasing worry about the power and influence of platforms, especially Facebook and Snapchat. However, many publishers blamed themselves for their ongoing difficulties, citing internal factors such as resistance to change and inability to innovate.

The survey makes clear that many publishers still feel that platform companies, Facebook in particular, need to do much more to face up to their wider responsibilities. Advertisers are demanding greater transparency over measurement and for more protection for their brands. Politicians, regulators and ordinary users will be adding to that pressure. Something significant is likely to give in 2018.

According to respondents, we should also expect more news organizations to pull out of deals with Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat as they realize they are not delivering sufficient financial return.

The report also predicts that the platforms will be forced to employ armies of human internet moderators.

More focus on subscribers and personalization

Almost half the publishers surveyed see subscriptions as a very important source of revenue in 2018, more so than digital display advertising and branded and sponsored content.

To attract more subscribers, publishers say they’ll focus on podcasts and look at developing content for voice-activated-speakers. Almost three-quarters plan to actively experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) to support better content recommendations and drive greater production efficiency.

Media companies, it appears, will be actively moving customers from the “anonymous to the known,” so they can develop more loyal relationships and prepare for an era of more personalized service. Quoted in the report, Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times, said: “AI/intelligent assistants solving for the consumer needs across devices, environments and media is the big tech story of the year.”

The rise and rise of artificial intelligence

The report also highlighted developments to watch in this space:

  • Computer-driven recommendations
    One of the most likely uses of AI by news publishers will be in driving better content recommendations on websites, via apps, or through push-notifications. A new recommendation service called James, currently being developed by The Times and Sunday Times for News UK, aims to learn about individual preferences and automatically personalize each edition in terms of format, time and frequency.
  • Assistants for journalists
    Get ready for AI bots that can manage journalists’ diaries, organize meetings, and respond to their emails. Already, Replika is an AI assistant that, with a bit of training, can pick up your moods, preferences, and mannerisms until it starts to sound like you and think like you when writing text. In the future, it may be able to mimic your style of posts on Twitter and Facebook and take care of your social media while you’re asleep.
  • Automated and semi-automated fact-checking
    AI will also assist journalists with fact-checking political claims in real time, possibly even while conducting a live radio or TV interview.
  • Commercial optimization
    The use of algorithms to recognize patterns in data and make predictions (machine learning) is already being used to drive commercial decisions. AI-driven paywalls will be able to identify likely subscribers and, based on previous behavior, serve up the offer (and wording) most likely to persuade them to subscribe. Another use will be to create more personalized advertisements.
  • Intelligent automation of workflows
    News organizations know they have to do more with less, without leading to journalist burn out. In the survey, 91% of respondents cited production efficiency as a “very important” or “quite important” priority this year. Intelligent automation (IA) is one way to achieve this. As examples, the Press Association in the UK has been working with Urbs media to deliver hundreds of semi-automated stories for local newspaper clients, while an automated news rewriting programme called Dreamwriter is already creating around 2500 pieces of news on finance, technology, and sports daily.
  • New audio platforms
    Meanwhile, new devices and technologies are set to change consumer behavior, especially the rapid adoption of voice-enabled smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Media companies polled in the leaders’ survey said they would be investing more this year in audio-based media such as podcasts and shorter form content experiments that are native to the new platforms.

Facing an uncertain future

The report concludes with the inevitable—that the future looks uncertain. “There is no sense that the technology revolution is slowing down. If anything, it seems as if we are at the beginning of a new phase of disruption. The era of artificial intelligence will bring new opportunities for creativity and for efficiency—but also for greater misinformation and manipulation.

“Ironically, publishers know that in many ways they need to behave more like Silicon Valley tech companies, even as they try to wrest back a measure of control around distribution and strategy. That means taking risks, breaking down hierarchies and delivering higher quality products and services that audiences love. In doing this, the smartest companies will be combining data and algorithms with great content as they seek to rebuild both trust and their businesses.”

How will a pedestrian’s death shape the future of autonomous cars?


Yesterday morning I was interviewed on the Today show on the implications of an Uber driverless car killing a pedestrian in Phoenix, Arizona. The segment is below.

The big picture

It is truly tragic that 1.3 million people are killed every year by automobile accidents (heavily weighted to developing countries, putting into context the already devastating death toll of for example 30,000 in the USA and 1,200 in Australia). By one analysis 94% of these deaths are caused by human error.
Read more

Sydney – Explore the future of sex: the evolving intersection of technology and human sexuality


My company Advanced Human Technologies launched the web publication in 2011, seeing it develop into one of the most prominent publications globally in the space today.

At the time I wrote about the reasons for launching the publication, including simply that it is a very important topic for us all to explore, given the technologies we develop are shaping who we are in a multitude of fundamental ways.

As the publication has progressed I have realized even more how critical this issue is. We published a summary Future of Sex Report to distill the key ideas and their implications.
Read more

Cyborg rights: law and society must allow us to modify ourselves


Yesterday I was interviewed live on the ABC National News on the case of Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, who had just been convicted for paying for his bus ride using an implanted chip instead of a standard bus card.

Below is the segment, running through the court case and conviction, followed by a 4 minute interview with me on the implications.

Read more

Periodic Table of Disruptive Technologies and Innovation


My colleague and friend Richard Watson and I have created a number of visual frameworks together over the years, including the Trend Blend series , the original Extinction Timeline and What will appear and disappear.

Richard has continued to create wonderful frameworks, with his latest a Periodic Table of Disruptive Technologies and Innovation (full size 9MB)

Click on the image for full size version (9MB)
Read more

The only thing you can change about your life… is your future


While recently re-reading some of my personal journals from my late teens and early twenties, I found a list of thoughts distilled from my writings over several years, categorized into the primary themes I was thinking about, such as ‘Experiencing’, ‘Independence’ and ‘Creation’.

One of these phrases was ‘The only thing you can change… is the future’.

It struck me as immensely apt to my work today, so I put it in a shareable image, shown below.
Read more

In the age of AI, relationship scope will drive value in professional services


I recently spoke to a group of senior partners responsible for a major law firm’s relationships with its top 50 clients.

The session was primarily framed around helping the partners understand the degree and nature of the shifts impacting their major clients in industries such as financial services, mining, construction, and infrastructure.

However I also delved into the impact of new technologies including AI on the delivery of high-end professional services, a topic I have been doing substantial work on recently with several clients.

The impact of AI on professional services

There are many specific issues stemming from the rise of AI and automation in professional services delivery, including the modularization of what have often been aggregated services, increased choice on service providers, changes in pricing models, and shifts in the relative roles of junior and senior professionals.
Read more

The four wonders of how a journal can help you real-ize your dreams


I have kept a journal in various guises since I was 16. Over the last few months, as I have transitioned into a substantially different phase of my life and work, I have been re-reading parts of my journals, particularly from my very early 20s when I was working out what I wanted to do with my life, to help make sense of where I am and where I’m going.
Read more

The Future of Associations: vision, capabilities and leadership for a changing world


Last month I gave the keynote at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Annual Board of Directors Strategic Retreat held in Panama City, Panama, on The Future of Associations.

IEEE is an august institution with over 400,000 members and an enormous impact on the technology industry globally, publishing over 170 top-rated journals, running 1800 conferences a year, and managing over 1000 standards, including WiFi.

All associations globally have been impacted by technological, social and structural shifts. IEEE’s board is on the front foot in understanding and addressing these issues, inviting me to speak on these changes and the emerging opportunities to help frame the discussions over their two-day strategic retreat.

A video of the full keynote has kindly been provided by here.

Read more

Exploring the future of homes: they will be our butlers and help us live longer


A recent article The revolution that will change how Australians live within 30 years dug into the future of homes, based on interviews with some of “Australia’s top futurists” including myself.

Here are some of the quotes they took from me:
Read more