Media leaders should focus on these 3 trends in 2022

By Bente Zerrahn

Axel Springer

Berlin, Germany


I know what you’re thinking: Another look into the crystal ball for what 2022 has to offer. How original!

Yes, I’m aware. However, after checking out one trend report after the other, I have to admit, I’m more confused than ever (Just me? Alright then.)

Technology is moving faster than ever, and it’s no surprise it’s getting harder to catch up. For publishers, there’s the question of where to invest our resources, especially as most of us don’t have the luxury to simply throw money on everything. Hiring tech talent hasn’t gotten easier in today’s market either.

2022 offers media companies big opportunities in audiences/content, networks, and enabling technologies.
2022 offers media companies big opportunities in audiences/content, networks, and enabling technologies.

As a result, only one-third of publishers prioritise launching new products and brand extensions. Two-thirds of publishers, on the other hand, will spend most of their time iterating and improving existing products, according to Reuters.

So, using only limited resources, what should you focus on if you do decide to launch new features or products? This little guide should help you along.

1. Audiences and content

Gen Z: Admittedly, I am a Zoomer myself, so there might be some bias here. However, it’s worth noting the following: While they haven’t reached full buying power yet, it makes sense to start rethinking newspapers for the true digital natives. If you look at this generation’s demands, they want journalism to be more authentic and “real,” while perfectionism (and old notions of “professionalism”) is becoming less relevant. Platforms like TikTok and Snapchat show great potential for publishers, especially with TikTok starting to test paid subscriptions.

Climate literacy: It seems people finally understand that climate change is a real thing on a major scale. However, publishers still seem to struggle with presenting the complexities of the topic in all its facets over a prolonged amount of time. And, because the topic is such a bummer, it doesn’t generate the best traffic either. We have to invest in helping climate experts and journalists work together even more. Perhaps the niche for environment journalists will become mainstream.

2. Networks

Shift to next gen social media: The social media shift is more apparent than ever. With younger generations spending their time on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, publishers are forced to rethink their content strategies. While most of us seem to focus a lot more resources on those networks, we also need to start thinking about the consequences for our “normal” business we’ve been running up to now.

Creator economy: The creator economy is finally enabling free creatives to be paid adequately for their work online — and we have collectively come to understand that paying them in “exposure” is not an option. This can have positive and negative effects on news media. On the one hand, creator content from celebrities and influencers alike can steal our readers’ attention. On the other hand, though, the de-bundling trend we see happening will continue growing, and individual journalists and cooperatives will have new opportunities through these advancements to charge for content. The para-social relationships (one-sided relationships media users engage in with a media persona) formed with influencers will help enable very effective social advertising. This is also helpful because we will have to stop relying on third-party cookies.

Audio ecosystems: Everyone and their aunt seem to have a podcast nowadays, so the popularity of audio in 2022 cannot be a surprise. However, this year could become the year of consolidation through and on platforms. The overall audio ecosystem will expand, especially in regard to personalisation. Audio is also getting more immersive as well as interactive. For us that means we cannot think of this as a side product: Now is the time to invest in new ways of storytelling.

3. Enabling technologies

Extended reality (XR): With Mark Zuckerberg kickstarting the race to the metaverse in October of last year, both Augmented and Virtual Reality will experience a boost in 2022. These building blocks will inevitably lead to new ways of interacting, personally and at work. The virtual worlds will also grant new opportunities to advertising and journalism alike.

Artificial Intelligence: The promise of AI being the next big thing has been made for a while now. However, now we’re reaching a point where it’s starting to be reasonably usable for non-engineers. Advances will create new roles in newsrooms as well as deeply entwined interdisciplinary teams possible.

Data: Last, but certainly not least, is data. If there’s a word that’s been more abused and overused in the news media realm, I don’t know it. However, with data democratisation and the dawning of the post-cookie era, journalists and advertisers have to get their move on!

About Bente Zerrahn

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