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2023 has been a year marked by a bleak economic picture: mass job layoffs at Reach plc, the bankruptcy of Vice and even BBC's Newsnight programme has seen cuts.

Who wants to be an independent news organisation or a media startup in these conditions? We asked the experts about what 2024 might have in store and they answered.

Local news will regain (some) strength: Eliz Mizon, strategy lead at The Bristol Cable

It has been difficult to have any real optimism around local news for, ooh, I dunno, the last several decades? And yet, as our team at the Bristol Cable moves into 2024, we are hopeful: it is our 10 year anniversary.

In that decade, we have weathered a number of storms, not least the double whammy of a pandemic followed by a cost of living crisis. But, the huge 12-month membership campaign we launched in September this year has already seen our membership income increase by £20,000, a significant proportion of our £60,000 target.

I am not predicting that local news will have a sudden resurgence and/or suddenly become sustainable - we have a huge way to go as a sector. But, we have seen a few key innovations and investments this year, for example, in the launch of The Great Central Gazette in Leicester, and investment in The Mill in Manchester.

My prediction is that, as audiences continue to feel jaded about the failures (and number of pop-ups) of corporate local papers, they will continue to seek out and support independent, investigative and community-focused outlets like the Cable providing an effective alternative.

Content creators will continue to rival news brands: Jonathan Paterson, managing editor, The News Movement (TNM)

Credit: Mark Hakansson / Mousetrap Media

The unstoppable fragmentation of the media landscape will continue into 2024. On the one hand, this is a moment of opportunity. Niche journalism is the future. Build loyal communities with small but engaged audiences. 

Most obviously that plays out in local journalism. Small startups such as Lincoln Diverter, Bristol Cable and The Mill have paved the way. But the opportunity goes beyond geographical specialism. And we should expect to see more specialist verticals. In the US election year, The Recount, TNM’s US politics vertical, for example, will be a must-follow. 

The challenge, of course, is how to pay for it. And in the fragmented world, the models for driving revenue are as diverse as the audiences. Subscriptions, micropayments, even ad revenue, or a combination of all of the above will only go part of the way. So startups will need to look at other ways of maximising income. 

At TNM, we are pioneering an agency model, delivering custom content production, channel management, and consultancy. The lessons we have learned in the newsroom apply to the world of brands and corporate communications. And we are finding an appetite from clients for content that shows the rigour of journalism. 

The model for startups supporting multiple brands will serve well in the future. Watch this year as all news brands wrestle with the world of the creator. The ultimate fragmentation. A young adult and a camera phone can command as large a following as a major news brand. 

2024 will see serious attempts to harness the power of the creators to deliver editorial and commercial success. However, in the world of creators, it is always about striking the right tone. Do not expect everyone to get it right. 

News organisations must fill the void of trust towards public institutions: Rozina Breen, CEO and editor, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ)

The need for stronger connection with each other and within newrsooms is going to be even more important. Journalism is a human endeavour and as the world continues to change we will need to lean in even more strongly to each other.

Connection with audiences will grow significantly as we continue the push for relevance and engagement. Trust in public institutions is breaking down, and the media is included in that. We will need to focus on rebuilding trust and work alongside audiences with greater depth. This year, I have been so proud that TBIJ is leading the way with our community-led pilot. Public interest journalism, for the public, by the public.

Internal collaboration between our teams will become even more apparent as we build on the intersections of our work. And external collaborations that execute diversity of thinking, approach and greater impact will also become vital. 

Ambition for the editorial will get deeper and longer. TBIJ's editor Franz Wild says we will need to keep going back to the story to spark change and drive real-world impact. I agree with him. Our 2023 world has been taken up by short-term thinking in terms of news and policy. We need to reclaim the space for longer-term journalism.

We will rediscover the connection between journalism and a place: Sameer Padania, strategic consultant, Macroscope

2024 brings us a mass global Electapalooza of procedural democracy, and there will be a spike of the usual horse-race click-chasing coverage. But across the UK, we have noticed (especially through our Local News Plans work) a growing mutual interest between local independent media and local democracy - not electoral, but deliberative and everyday democracy, like citizens' panels and assemblies.

At heart, they both help us collectively sift and weigh information about the places where we are, about power, money, inequality, about difference and change, and to make more informed decisions and action on fundamental issues facing our communities. 

I hope that in 2024 we will realise that communities don't see media at the local level as separate from the rest of society, but firmly as part of it.

I hope in a year's time, we will reflect on a 2024 when, through these shared acts of making sense of the world together, through seeing and listening to each other through independent journalism and everyday democracy, we will have seen real efforts around the world to push back on those trying to exploit polarisation, and real advances in rebuilding the culture of information essential to meaningful democracy, and more resilient to the adrenaline of the horse-race.

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