Navigating the permacrisis through quality journalism
Published: 03 Jan 2023
2022 saw Russia invading Ukraine, Elon Musk purchasing Twitter, a global cost of living crisis, and Donald Trump announcing his intention to run for President of the USA. Against a backdrop of seemingly perpetual uncertainties, quality news publishers play an important role in continuing to inform and educate their audiences.
As we look forward to 2023 and beyond though, what emerging trends will be making waves? And how can advertisers partner with publishers credibly in a way that strengthens the broader digital ecosystem? We reached out to three of our publishers to discover their perspective on the changing digital landscape, how journalism is responding, and how advertisers can interact safely.
After a decade of growth, there are shockwaves rippling through social media platforms. “This year is ending with some serious volatility on the platforms that many publishers have come to rely on,” highlighted Nick Mitchell, Editor at NationalWorld. “Elon Musk’s Twitter is the most newsworthy example, but Meta too is clearly moving away from news.”
Musk’s Twitter looks increasingly on the edge of implosion, with a brutal wave of layoffs that saw the company losing almost two-thirds of its staff and half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers pulling their advertising from the platform. Meta has made several statements that they would ban news on that platform in response to acts that would require Facebook to pay for including news on its platform. Meta also laid off over 11,000 employees in November as the company continues to lose substantial sums of money.
In the resulting void, it seems likely that TikTok will continue to grow, although publishers and advertisers alike are still identifying how they want to interact on the platform. However, it’s increasing role in shaping global strategies cannot be discounted – as Steve Wilson-Beales, Co-Chair of the AOP’s Journalism Advisory Board, told us, “we should all start preparing ourselves for the first TikTok presidential election in 2024.” In search, Google continues to increase the rate of its key updates and as Steve shared, “we are likely to see more peaks and troughs in search visibility than on my recent visit to the Scottish Highlands.”
“If the Twitter debacle has proved anything,” Steve Wilson Beales mused, “it’s a reminder that humans are the key decision makers in these social media companies, and not the algorithms. And in 2023, journalism will continue to walk the problematic path of shining a light on these powerful individuals
Quality digital publishing is integral to creating trusted relationships with audiences at a time when trust in being eroded. Fear of false information being weaponised is at an all-time high according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer and promoting and protecting factual, well-sourced, and ethical journalism is more essential than ever.
However, digital publishing also has an important role in combating the semi-permanent sense of feat and dread. A 2022 Reuters Institute study showed that 46% of Britons selectively avoid the news at least some of the time because it has a negative effect on their mood. “It has never been more important to share a sense of optimism, hope, and community,” enthused Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon, Head of Digital at HELLO! magazine. “The next 12 months are likely to be tough for our community, still bruised from the last few years of loss and uncertainty, negativity bombarding them on almost every front. Happiness is more than a zeitgeist topic.”
How then are publishers responding to these new challenges? And how can advertisers find credible ways to engage with topics of increasing importance?
In their Media Moments 2022 report, What’s New In Publishing calls for a greater adoption of ‘solutions journalism’ that provides more optimism and confidence to navigate challenging topics. For example, while climate coverage is becoming increasingly mainstream due to renewed journalistic effort, angles that avoid sensationalism and give readers the tools to make positive changes in their own lives will likely be better received. This also provides a number of avenues for brands who want to highlight their ESG credentials to place advertisements in contextually relevant places. Beyond that, contextually relevant ads also significantly boost brand favourability and consumer purchase intent according to recent research from IAS.
However, publishers continue to innovate to find new ways to serve their audiences and deliver against advertisers’ requirements. “If we give in to ways of doing journalism that placates ‘what the algorithms want’ then we close the door to innovation,” suggested Steve Wilson-Beales.