No one dares to predict what exactly will happen to Twitter in the new year. New policies are announced and unannounced faster than you can blink and, according to this tweet, major policy changes should be decided in Twitter polls from now on. If Elon Musk remains Twitter's CEO, that is.
One thing is sure - the relationship between platforms and news publishers has gotten frostier this year and there is no sign of it warming up. So if you are trying to solve the I-hate-platforms-but-the-audience-is-there dilemma in the year to come, read on.
Other articles in this series:
- Predictions for journalism in 2023: public interest news
- Predictions for journalism in 2023: diversity and mental health
- Predictions for journalism in 2023: AI and tech
- Predictions for journalism in 2023: newsroom leadership, product, and revenue
- Predictions for journalism in 2023: audience expectations and user needs
Strong personalities will win: Matt Navarra, social media consultant and industry analyst
The relationship between platforms and publishers will largely continue to be the same as in 2022. Except for Twitter, which is going through huge changes around ownership and content moderation.
Elon Musk has not got a lot of patience or interest in building bridges with journalists and news publishers. But he must recognise that one of Twitter’s USPs has been its ability to distribute news content and that has been largely driven by journalists.
His relationship with the news media is very antagonistic, though, so it is going to be a much more difficult and less cooperative environment. It will also be harder for publishers to develop new products on the platform. It is possible that presence on Twitter will become untenable with its new policies, especially around content moderation.
Meta is also further distancing itself from journalism, shutting down resources and products for journalists and redirecting resources to metaverse.
TikTok, being one of the worst platforms for disinformation, presents journalists with new opportunities to use it to their advantage. It will be adopted by more news publishers in the year ahead.
Mastodon or Hive are the most talked about as alternatives to Twitter but they all have their flaws. There is more appetite for building private and closed communities on spaces like Discord or Telegram. These present an opportunity for news publishers to experiment with new formats and niche content.
With the success of platforms like TikTok, news brands will have to behave more like creators in the way they produce content and engage with their audiences. They will need to find hybrid business models and support individuals that may be more important that the news brand, like CNN’s Max Foster or VICE’s Sophia Smith Galer. Those organisations that will hire strong personalities who will deliver on these platforms are the ones that are going to succeed in the year ahead.
TikTok will be centre stage: Lucy Küng, strategic advisor and academic
The platforms will continue to regroup, and review their engagement with the news sector. TikTok will be centre stage. The news industry has understandably focused on its allure for younger audiences, but it is important not to overlook its impact on advertising: TikTok is siphoning advertising revenues away from traditional media products and the timing could not have been worse.
Make direct traffic great again: Thomas Baekdal, media analyst
News media need to focus on how to do things now that social media is not what it used to be, with Twitter and Facebook distancing themselves from journalists.
This, however, is a good thing. Social media never really benefited us. Sure, we got some traffic, but that traffic came at the cost of the erosion of loyalty, low-quality and low-converting traffic, and a journalistic focus that made our direct traffic perform worse as well.
We can see this clearly in the studies about news consumption. The countries with the highest level of social news consumption are also the countries where newspapers often perform the worst.
So, the combination of Facebook giving up on news, and the very clear data that newspapers benefit from when they focus on direct shows us how to think about this in the future.
In 2023, many publishers will have to think long and hard about this and start to experiment with how to make direct traffic work again.
Watch out for new regulations: Ben Whitelaw, journalist, consultant and digital strategist
Content moderation has been a thread running through many publishers' coverage over the last 12 months due to Elon Musk's takeover and incoming platform regulation in the UK and Europe. 2023 will see it come into focus for a number of reasons.
Firstly, as Twitter and other platforms reinstate previously banned users, we are likely to see whole news cycles regarding account takedowns and the reactions of other prominent users to these moderation decisions. Think Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Alex Jones but every week. With so many mini-narratives to keep track of, I expect (and hope) that we will see online speech reporting becoming distinct from technology and general news publishers investing resources in technology policy coverage that impacts millions of people every day. The smartest outlets will appoint specialists with deep knowledge of shadowbanning and deplatforming who can unpack the many tradeoffs for readers.
Secondly, much like there was with GDPR, there is work to be done to ensure news organisations comply with regulations due in 2023. For example, the EU's Digital Services Act requires all online platforms to publish public transparency reports with information on content moderation measures, something very few outlets currently do. Other legislation, like the UK's Online Safety Bill, contains "duties to protect journalistic content"; but who does that apply to and what does it mean exactly in practice? UK publishers would be wise to look for guidance on how to comply with the intended regular Ofcom in the spring next year.
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