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.”

Decline of News-on-paper: United States


Mapping the decline of news-on-paper

[Latest update: December 15, 2017]
The Newspaper Extinction Timeline, released in 2010, predicted that news-on-paper would become “insignificant” in the U.S. Read the Review of the Newspaper Extinction Timelinefor full context.

This page compiles some of the most recent available data on the state of news-on-paper in the U.S. Note that there are massive challenges to gaining an accurate current view of the state of news-on-paper.

  • The Newspaper Association of America (now renamed News Media Alliance) stopped providing detailed industry information in 2013.
  • Publicly listed news organizations have been largely very opaque in providing details on their print revenue and circulation.
  • Almost all so-called “newspaper circulation” figures available include both paper and digital formats. Most of the data below includes both paper and digital so does not provide real insight into the state of news-on-paper.

However the most important issue is NOT the decline of news-on-paper, but from the position we are in today how we can best create a positive future for the news industry over all channels.

More than a 1/3 of paid daily newspaper circulation has disappeared over 10 years

At the turn of the century, newspaper circulation in the United States rested at a relatively stable level of approximately 55 million copies a year. Nevertheless, ever since peaking in the late 1980s—hitting 62.82 million in 1987—the circulation of paid daily newspapers has consistently declined.

[NOTE: Figures include both print and digital]

Data sources: Editor & PublisherAlliance for Audited MediaPew Research Center  Chart source: statista

The pace of decline accelerated in 2004 (54.63 million), but not precipitously, resulting in a drop of more than 36% by 2016 (34.66 million). According to the last ten years of recorded data (2006-2016) supplied in the chart above, paid daily newspaper circulation sunk 34%.  

To take a closer look at the yearly circulation numbers, statista provides an interactive version of the chart above as well as multiple options for downloading the information.

2016 circulation for both Weekday and Sunday editions has plunged to the lowest figures since 1945

[NOTE: Figures include both print and digital]

Data sources: Editor & Publisher (through 2014); estimation based on Pew Research Centeranalysis of Alliance for Audited Media data (2015-2016). Chart source: Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center offers deeper insight into the decline of newspapers in the United States, providing separate circulation data for Weekday and Sunday daily newspapers. The center’s analysis shows that in 2016 both hit their lowest levels since 1945, with circulation figures of 35 million and 38 million respectively.

Advertising revenue dropped nearly two-thirds between 2005 and 2016, while circulation revenue rose slightly

[NOTE: Figures include both print and digital]

Data sources: News Media Alliance, formerly Newspaper Association of America, (through 2012); Pew Research Center analysis of year-end SEC filings of publicly traded newspaper companies (2013-2016). Chart source: Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center also analyzed advertising and circulation revenue for U.S. newspapers over a 60-year period starting in 1956. Although circulation earnings have gradually increased, total advertising revenue fell significantly between 2005 and 2016. During these 11 years, total advertising revenue for the industry plummeted by nearly two-thirds, decreasing from $49 billion to $18 billion. The bulk of advertising revenue still comes from print, compromising approximately 80% in 2011 and dropping to close to 70% in 2016.

We recommend the valuable Pew Reseach Center website on Journalism & Media, which is compiled from a variety of industry resources.

Print became the least popular news source in 2014, continuing to fall through 2017 down to 22% weekly consumption

Data and chart source: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017

From 2013 to 2017, the number of people who read print newspapers decreased by almost one-fifth. As the medium dropped out of favor, social media as a news source enjoyed a steady climb, with consumption growing by about 6% each year.

Each year since 2012, the Reuters Institute in partnership with the University of Oxford has released a digital news report offering insights into the transition to online news and its effect on the media landscape. Although the first report covered just five countries, the latest included survey data from 70,000 participants across 36 countries.

For people wanting to delve deeper and compare data between and within countries, we strongly recommend reading the latest report and using the interactive feature to create your own charts.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are uniquely positioned to monetize print but its role is rapidly declining

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are distinct from other newspapers in the U.S. in that they are truly national and in fact arguably global “newspapers of record”. All three have made a concerted and successful shift to digital subscriptions and advertising. However, their role means that the role of print in their business models continues to be solid.

These uniquely successful news organizations recognize that they may not continue indefinitely on print. New York Times’ CEO Mark Thompson says in an interesting interview in Nieman Lab on when to stop the presses forever:

“The print product is a mature platform. It is, as you say, an economically important platform to us. It’s possible that platform will plateau. I think it’s more likely that the platform will eventually go away. It’ll go away because the economics will no longer make sense to us or our customers.”

Weekly community newspapers are severely challenged but are likely to have further life

There remain many newspapers across the US, primarily weekly, with small circulations but advertising revenues that are sometimes not eroding as fast as larger newspapers due to their highly geographically focused audiences and unique content.

Data source: Editor & Publisher, American Press Institute, Columbia Journalism Review

An excellent report from Columbia Journalism Review’s Tow Center on Small-market newspapers in the digital age provides strong insights into the state of the sector and some of the ways community newspapers are successful responding to change.

Since September 2005, employment in the U.S. newspaper industry has dropped by more than half

Note: Shaded areas represent recession, as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Data and chart source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

U.S. Newspaper employment:
January 1990: 455,000 (62% decline since this date)
January 2010: 260,800 (33% decline since this date)
September 2016: 173,700

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides the above chart in an interactive format. Users can explore the data further by hovering their cursors over the lines representing the different information industries or by clicking on the “Chart Data” tab to view it in a table format.

NOTE: “Newspaper employment” includes staff working on both print and digital editions, a fraction of these figures work

How Chatbots and News Messaging Apps Are Changing Editorial and Commercial Innovation


In a 2015 blog post entitled “The Future of News is Not an Article,” Alexis Lloyd, the then creative director of the New York Times R&D Lab, envisaged a future that unlocked the potential of “Particles” instead of articles.

She pointed to Particles, “the potentially reusable pieces of information within an article,” as the way forward for news organizations to encode information in a more accessible, relevant, and long-lasting manner:

“The Particles approach…means that news organizations are not just creating the “first draft of history”, but are synthesizing the second draft at the same time, becoming a resource for knowledge and civic understanding in new and powerful ways.”

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Lloyd’s essential message was that organizations must transcend the limitations of the traditional news article—a relic of a relatively print-dominated era when storytelling had fewer platforms—in order to make the most of, and the most impact in, a digital media environment.

Based on this premise, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has recently published a report by media consultant Kevin Anderson entitled “Beyond the Article: Frontiers of Editorial and Commercial Innovation”. The report urges news organizations to think “beyond the article” in terms of “both the content they produce and the commercial revenue that supports their journalism.”

‘News as conversation’

Given the pressures surrounding existing business models for news, Anderson argues that editorial and commercial innovation must go hand in hand to propel journalism forward in a digital world. One of the key developments he sees at this intersection is the use of messaging apps and chatbots. These platforms are fuelling the shift to “news as conversation,” an approach that seeks to capitalize on mobile and messaging trends, build closer relationships with audiences, and generate new commercial opportunities.

The potential of a “news as conversation” approach has become increasingly apparent since usage of the big four messaging platforms—WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger—overtook the big four social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—in monthly active users throughout 2015 and 2016.

“Beyond the Article” covers three interesting case studies that harness this trend: the Facebook chatbots of social news network Rappler, the apps driving youth engagement with newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and the conversational interface and notification system of the Quartz news app. The key findings of these case studies are highlighted below.

1. Helping people see the whole picture: Improving content discovery and crowdsourcing through Rappler’s Facebook chatbots


Rappler, a growing Philippines-based social news network, sought to overcome the content limitations of Facebook’s algorithms and newsfeed in a way that would better communicate its distinctive editorial voice and priorities.

“People are really seeing a lopsided view of what we are serving our public, and that has an impact on the quality of discourse,” Rappler’s head of research and content strategy, Gemma Bagayaua Mendoza, said in an interview with Anderson. “In the Philippines as in the United States, the echo chambers are really out there, and they are affecting how people respond to situations in current events. We would like to be able to have direct access to people so they see the whole picture.”


Rappler dedicated two developers to work on a Facebook chatbot called RapRap. Launched in July 2016, the chatbot is a conversational application that allows users to ask basic questions or enter keywords to see related stories from the Rappler site.

Rappler has also built a chatbot that assists people to contribute to its crowdsourced #NotOnMyWatch anti-corruption project. #NotOnMyWatch uses real-time data to show where and how corruption happens, a game-changing approach in a country where very few families who pay bribes actually report corruption.

Benefits and challenges

The first round of chatbot development was relatively quick and “the effort was fairly low,” according to Rappler’s then-CTO Nam Le. Despite this, spreading awareness about how users can interact with the bots remains important as technical developments unfold. The bots are expected to gradually recognize and respond to a greater variety of user requests and submissions.

The RapRap chatbot has helped Rappler to capitalize on a surge in Facebook activity amid declining Twitter usage in the Philippines. As the bot facilitates user discovery of the breadth and depth of Rappler content, the organization anticipates more story views and more advertising revenue. The sales team is exploring ways to make this happen.

Meanwhile, the chatbot for #NotOnMyWatch has benefited from crowdfunding and private-sector grants. By providing a convenient online reporting process, the bot is helping mobilize individuals and communities to supplant Facebook rants with actual reports of corruption. “This is something that we hope to carry into the next years. If we can make it work, it will make fighting corruption far more transparent,” said Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa at the Philippines Social Good Summit in 2016.

2. From a WhatsApp experiment to a custom-built app: Engaging youth audiences through chat at Helsingin Sanomat


Nyt (“Now”), the youth-oriented section of Finland’s largest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, wanted to grow its reach among 15- to 26-year-olds. Initial efforts to engage this age bracket on social media had plateaued, with Instagram and Facebook strategies proving less successful than expected. Consequently, the Nyt team sought a new strategy to effectively engage with the target audience, especially its youngest members.


Realizing that WhatsApp is used by around 80% of youth in Finland, Nyt launched a WhatsApp newsletter in autumn 2014. It first sent subscribers a few top stories, a small number of headlines, and a joke. Although the team didn’t heavily market the newsletter and only expected a few hundred early adopters, within a week 3,000 users had joined. Shortly afterwards, Nyt had to cap the number of users at 5,000.

The limitations of the WhatsApp platform soon became apparent. Faced with what news editor Jussi Pullinen called “a manual labor hell” of managing multiple distribution lists and precariously navigating the platform’s terms of use, the Nyt team decided to work with an external firm to develop a custom-built app that could mirror the conversational format of WhatsApp.

Benefits and challenges

Nyt’s WhatsApp experiment offered a useful learning curve that informed the design of the app. The Nyt team had been surprised at the intensity of interaction from young WhatsApp users who asked questions, sent audio and video files, and gave direct feedback about what they wanted more of and what Nyt should change.

“People who were from the Helsinki region really liked getting tips on new restaurants or bars or info on events on the town via chat,” said Pullinen, rather than having to “go and look that info up”. Chat therefore proved to be a convenient, social and user-friendly way for Nyt to engage a youth audience. As Pullinen explained in a post on Medium:

“All in all, it felt very personal and very natural to be a media brand and to chat.”

But there was a significant stumbling block: WhatsApp users were not clicking through to the website. Consequently, rather than relying on website traffic, the Nyt app is designed to drive revenue through partnerships with local businesses who provide coupons, contests, and sponsored content. Building these partnerships requires more work than selling ad banners, but Nyt’s data indicates that its young readers tend to block or ignore ads, yet they are relatively open to reading quality sponsored content.

The Nyt app now has many times more users than those on the WhatsApp newsletter. However, maintaining user engagement has been harder. “Our core audience is on WhatsApp all the time. When you have a separate app, you have a threshold there,” Pullinen said in an interview for “Beyond the Article.” Despite this setback, the Nyt app continues to unlock valuable insights into the brand’s youth audience, including their preferences for a distinct editorial voice, a short digest format, and direct, genuine interaction.

3. Playful, creative and condensed: Newsbites, notifications and the Quartz brand experience


Given that consumer use of notifications tripled in many countries from 2013 to 2016, digital business news outlet Quartz wanted to enter people’s mobile notification streams. It sought to achieve this in a way that would align with its three guiding principles: “provide global business news, respect readers’ time, and go where the readers are.”


After weighing up several contrasting ideas, from a minimal mobile experience with extensive notifications to a mobile version of the full Quartz website, Quartz decided instead on an app with a conversational interface. In an article about the launch of the Quartz news app for iPhone, Zachary M. Seward explained:

“We put aside existing notions about news apps and imagined what our journalism would be if it lived natively on your iPhone. It wouldn’t be a facsimile of our website. It would be something entirely different, with original writing, new features, and a fresh interface.”

Launched in February 2016, the Quartz app presents users with newsbites, where they can click on an emoji-filled icon to receive a story summary in live-chat style messages, or they can skip to the next story. Users can also choose from four types of notifications: basic news updates, important and interesting news, “really, really big news,” and the “markets haiku”.

Benefits and challenges

Quartz’s chat-based app is strikingly relevant for time-pressed audiences and Millennials. The app’s instant responses mimic the familiar format of texting, generating a comfortable, amusing vibe similar to chatting with a friend. Although the app does not at first understand an individual user’s news preferences, the decisions that users make about article choice and notifications provide Quartz with a wealth of customer data points, fuelling feedback loops that may be used to build more efficient and personalized customer experiences.

Some people may find the app a bit limiting because it chooses which news stories to reveal, one at a time. But in the view of Adam Pasick, push news editor for Quartz, this is precisely the app’s crucial differentiator: “We’re providing a very slim, curated view of things that we find interesting,” he told Anderson. “This is really a small snack size as far as reading the news goes.” In contrast to the Quartz website’s array of in-depth feature articles, the Quartz news app thrives on its brevity, epitomized in the cryptic and popular daily Markets Haiku.


To help monetize the app, Quartz places visual ads within the app’s update stream. This may seem counter-intuitive given consumer trends towards ad-blocking and ad resistance. Nonetheless, for many users, the overall experience of the app is likely to be positive, convenient and even delightful. According to Quartz creative director Brian Dell, the goal is “to match our user’s context, and build the best brand experiences for that in a Quartzy way.”

Convergence in the business case for news as “particles” of conversation

In the three case studies above, the alignment of clear editorial goals with technology and business outcomes has paved the way for innovation in how people understand, experience and engage with news. By converting news into “particles” of conversation, Rappler, Helsingin Sanomat, and Quartz are making information resonate with their readers in direct and convenient ways that could revitalize brand-to-consumer relationships.

Nonetheless, there are many challenges involved in making chat-based news successful and sustainable. Harnessing the rise of bots and messaging is only one trend involved in creating the future of news—a future increasingly being shaped by the synthesis of editorial and commercial aspirations.

Image sources:,, Helsingin Sanomat via, Quartz via, and Quartz via Mike Wickett

Mobile Adblock Usage Surges in Asia-Pacific and Could Also Explode in North America and Europe, Warns Report


Mobile devices running adblockers have overtaken desktop adblocker usage globally due to their rapid adoption in Asia during 2016, according to a recent report from Page Fair. The company often releases data recognized as reputable; however, it notably also sells anti-adblocker technology to publishers.

According to the report, devices with mobile adblockers increased by 108 million from December 2015 to December 2016 internationally, reaching 380 million in total. This represented 62% of the adblock software that was run worldwide on 615 million devices.
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However, the practice was highly centralized in Asia-Pacific, where 94% of global mobile adblock usage occurred and grew by 40% over the previous year.

(click to expand)

The study also offers country breakdowns for desktop, mobile, and overall adblock penetration. Indonesia stood out in particular for running adblockers on 58% of mobile devices and 8% on desktops. Next came India with 28% and 1% respectively.

Figures reveal a much different story for the rest of the globe. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, only 1% of mobile users in each country used adblockers. Desktop adblock usage was 18% and 16%, respectively. Further ad market data by region and country is shown in the charts below.

While the use of mobile adblockers remains low in Europe and North America, Page Fair warns are no obstacles preventing equally quick growth in these regions.

“Mobile adblock usage is spreading rapidly due to partnerships between adblocking browsers and device manufacturers & distributors,” states the report. “Mass adoption in North America and Europe will continue organically, but may accelerate unexpectedly if manufacturers or distributors close deals to pre-configure adblock software.”

The effectiveness of adblockers

Some online publishers have begun fighting back against adblocking by making readers turn them off before entering the full site. However, the report states that this strategy generally doesn’t work. From a survey of adblock users in the United States carried out in November 2016, they found that 90% had encountered an adblock wall. However, 74% of them said they leave websites in such cases, with older Internet users and men more likely to abandon a site.


“Adblock walls are ineffective at motivating most adblock users to disable their adblock software, even temporarily. Unless the website in question has valued content that cannot be obtained elsewhere, an adblock wall is likely to be ineffective at combatting adblock usage at any significant rate,” said the report.

Notably, adblock users don’t reject all ad formats. 77% of those surveyed said they find some formats permissible. For example, 52% said they prefer static banners, but 35% prefer skippable ads. Nearly a third said they disliked non-skippable video ads, and nearly a quarter were against auto-play audio ads.

“Interruptive ad formats are the primary cause of user frustration, while non-interruptive formats, such as static banner ads, are broadly accepted,” concluded the report.

These statistics reveal that adblock users are largely concerned with a seamless user experience. Encountering an adblock wall and being asked to disable it, in itself, is viewed as an annoying interruption and doesn’t appear to be winning over frustrated news consumers.

Currently, we are also seeing tension between publishers and platforms like Facebook, with the latter having more influence on what news items people see. As more and more people rely on social media platforms for media content, particularly millennials, the issue is particularly salient.

Facebook has succeeded with technology that serves ads on the blocked web. A solution going forward may be publishers creating their own closed platforms. If they can’t produce enough unique content to garner digital subscriptions, at least they can combat adblockers and focus on offering advertising that doesn’t bother consumers in an environment they can control.

Image sources: Page Fair