2023 3D
Credit: Planet Volumes on Unsplash

2022 was pretty turbulent. There is no way of knowing what lies in the year ahead for newsroom leaders, so we asked four industry experts to share their insights on what may happen.

Other articles in this series:

Focus and listen: Lucy Kung, strategic advisor and academic

Turbulence, instability and uncertainty will continue in 2023. This will be a tough environment and also a complex one, with many big inter-related shifts underway.

In terms of digital disruption, 'hardcore' (to quote Elon Musk) disruption will move from news to broadcasting, specifically to the streaming sector. The media industry has been digitally transforming for a quarter of a century and now it is video’s turn. A surge in competitors coupled with a cost-of-living crisis and the enormous investment required to build scale means a shakeout is inevitable.

Inside news organisations, stress levels will stay high. There will be pressure on revenues at a time when companies need to accelerate the digital shift, build out adjacent revenue streams, and land hybrid working.  

So what should leaders do? First, focus on listening and rebuilding connective tissue, especially between individuals, their leaders and the purpose of the organisation. Gain a sense of energy and commitment levels, and calibrate priorities accordingly.

Second, provide clarity. Do people know the 'must-win battles'? Do they have scope to focus on these or are there too many competing priorities? 

Finally, (not a prediction but rather a wish), listen, listen, then differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. Do not follow peers, rather listen to readers and audiences. The industry is hyper-attuned to monitoring and imitating competitors but the route to really strong performance lies in truly understanding audiences and their needs and differentiating equally strongly on the back of that.

Keep learning: Lyndsey Jones, publishing consultant and lead author of "Going Digital: what it takes for smoother transformations"

It does not matter what is around the corner in terms of business transformation but how you adapt to it and what you choose to focus on.

Journalists who succeed in the year ahead will be largely those that have a growth mindset and emotional intelligence, where they are continuously learning, keeping an eye on what is changing and being laser-focused on what to be involved with.

Creativity, critical thinking, resilience and emotional intelligence are the key skills you should focus on and nurture for yourself to stay ahead of the curve.

Being able to keep learning is a key aptitude that companies look for when hiring and mindset can be more important than skill set.

It is important to challenge yourself, to put yourself in the first line to experiment to learn a new methodology to use new tools.

Successful people develop mastery by making choices of what to focus on. They do not try to learn all the new things all the time and focus on every new trend. But they do maximise the opportunity to transfer skills. To see how something that they learnt before could be reusable.

Create new products: Thomas Baekdal, media analyst

If we look at the past three years, the dominant trend for publishers has been subscriptions. How do we make them work? What about the churn rate? How do we create a propensity for people to subscribe?

But once you have optimised your subscription paths and models, and once you have managed your churn, how do you unlock the audience that did not convert?

This is going to be a very big focus for many publishers in 2023, and the answer is ‘the product’. Publishers need to really think about what news means to people. How to make it more relevant, more useful, more personally important, and more interesting?

So, in 2023, we are going to see publishers focus on coming up with new models, and new ways of doing things, not necessarily in terms of what formats to use (although that is obviously also a part of it), but more so in terms of the journalistic focus, the topics, and the very definition of news.

This is not going to be an easy task but we are starting to see the beginning of the next era of news.

Grow reader revenue: Madhav Chinnappa, director of news ecosystem development, Google

2023 will see an increase in monetisation around “reach” products: previously podcasts, audio and newsletters had been seen as drivers of reach and brand. I predict significant developments in using them to make money – and that is a great development. The most recent UK example would be the Manchester Mill.

The second trend will be the growth of reader revenue. It is fantastic to see strong growth in reader revenue models across the industry as publishers get more sophisticated with digital and diversify their business models. I see more growth in membership and donations models than subscriptions as news organisations, particularly local and hyper-local ones, look to engage their audiences and create relationships rather than just offering transactions.

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