Zeno Thinks: How technology will shape the future of news
The fact that the transition from physical newspapers to online news media has taken so long is testament to how ingrained traditional media is. But today’s reality is that online media gets more of our attention, more often, in more places and in many more formats.
The classic written article is frequently replaced by a video clip on your favourite news site and a shorter 10 second soundbite shared to millions on TikTok. If the news is big enough it may even spawn new podcasts, Subreddits and Discord servers for endless debate, discussion and speculation.
This shift looks set to continue. So what can we expect from the future?
Changes in distribution
The news stand offered a simple choice: a dozen or so titles vying for your attention with headlines to suit your level of education and political views. The online marketplace for news is very different, with hundreds of online news outlets competing for attention via their own platforms, social media distribution and promotion.
Social media platforms have a huge amount of control over who sees what, so understanding how they manage and distribute content will be key to the future of news distribution.
The distribution landscape will likely change again as we transition to more immersive spaces online. VR and AR are already beginning to show their promise when it comes to storytelling. Being immersed in a warzone, seeing the story play out from the other side or exploring that crime scene in 3D holds huge potential to inform and educate.
Anyone with a smartphone and an x.com account can now share their story with the world, and we have seen individuals with little to no formal training grow huge, engaged audiences on social media.
Regular people can be on the ground, unfiltered, free and live immediately: an appealing prospect for a generation that has grown up with instant news. In the absence of an editor and supporting team, however, they can be more susceptible to misinformation and pressure from parties seeking to control the narrative.
Alongside this, some journalists cast out by traditional media channels are building huge audiences of their own based on the promise of more candid content. Take former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, for example. Even his lowest viewed show on x.com has reached an audience far beyond anything prime-time cable news could dream of.
Improvements in quality
Publishers need to balance speed with verification and be mindful of misinformation. None of the tools we have today – even with the wider introduction of AI – can truly automatically verify any given story.
As the sheer volume of content creation increases, it will be necessary to develop systems that allow control on a wider, faster scale. Many tech companies are already introducing measures to improve this, but there is a long way to go.
Expect to see more extreme measures like Sam Altman’s eyeball scanning technology or reverse paywalls, where publishers need to pay to verify before they can distribute content.
Use of data
AI will play a big role in the future of data and personalisation. Newspapers had to pick a headline and stick with it. Online news outlets like the BBC already test multiple headlines as a new story develops, eventually pushing the ones that get the most clicks and engagement.
AI can take things to another level in terms of scale, serving a unique, personalised headline to millions based on everything from age and education level to income and political beliefs.
As technology continues to shift news consumption, the importance of quality, authenticity and the use of data will be key.
So what’s a brand to do?
The public’s healthy appetite for news looks set to continue and while the medium and landscape may change, be mindful that many of the basic mechanics of reporting the news remain.
Social media platforms are very good at pushing the content you like, using complex algorithms and AI to deliver what gets the best engagement. In this context it’s imperative to focus on producing fresh, original content.
People want fresh perspectives, representation and greater access. Telling your brand story in an honest, open and engaging manner is the first step. Technology will continue to evolve the news, and what appears outlandish today will soon enough be the new normal.
Be curious, remain informed and don’t be afraid to try something different. Easier said than done, perhaps, but where technology is concerned fortune really does favour the brave.
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