The disruption of television, rise of the podcast and growth of online video are some of the key trends that could mark 2016, digital strategist Nic Newman outlined in his Media, Journalism and Technology Predictions report published today.
Newman, research associate fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, looked at trends in the media industry and the technology sector, from smartphone development to the way social networks could work with news organisations.
As part of the study, he surveyed 130 senior digital leaders across 25 countries, with questions designed to identify and measure key industry challenges and opportunities.
Here are some highlights from the report:
Growing investment in online video
Some 78 per cent of digital leaders surveyed said they would be investing more in online video this year as a result of predicted growth in video consumption from viewers on mobile devices.
The video formats that media organisations are planning to focus on in the next year include 360-degree footage and livestreaming for more immersive storytelling; vertical video to reflect the format's popularity on mobile; and virtual reality, as the upcoming Olympics and the United States election provide opportunities to experiment in 2016.
Among other industry initiatives, the report highlighted The Washington Post's four live-shot locations, and BuzzFeed's 250-strong Los Angeles-based video production unit called BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which experiments with short and longform content.
The Huffington Post and Upworthy also announced shake-ups of their video operations since the beginning of the year.
And according to the study, we can also expect to see Facebook launch a new tab just for videos, featuring better search and discovery features – with users able to watch videos while multitasking, and save content to watch later.
New smartphone features and opportunities
Newman noted that the smartphone has "become not just our primary access point to digital but the remote control for life itself, with iOS and Android devices currently outselling PC's 5:1".
A recent survey quoted in the report showed that in the UK, we collectively glance at our screens more than a billion times a day, and almost 60 per cent of us check our mobile phones within 15 minutes of waking up.
3D touch, introduced by Apple in 2015, will be launched by rival manufactures this year, along with foldable and waterproof smartphones, predicted Newman.
Wireless charging will become commonplace, he added, enabling more users to enjoy the faster data speeds and processing power that will come into effect.
Push notifications are another mobile trend highlighted by the study. These alerts give publishers the ability to reach out directly to people who do not open news apps or read branded mobile websites regularly.
In addition, Newman noted that consumer use of news notifications has more than doubled in many countries that have access to devices like smart watches, such as the UK and France.
He explained that in 2016, publishers like The New York Times will experiment with more personalised alerts, based on the time of day or the reading history of an individual user. The NYT set up a team of 11 people to "specifically focus on creation and scheduling of notifications and push alerts without overly annoying and interrupting users".
Mobile payments could also see growth in 2016, Newman noted, despite accounting for only 1.6 per cent of total sales in the US last year.
This figure is about to increase this year as platform providers, retailers and marketers are all interested in embracing the technology, and consumers will find the convenience, speed and security benefits of digital wallets more appealing.
Television consumption is falling in many countries due to the growing popularity of services such as Netflix, which offer on-demand access to TV shows, documentaries and films in seconds.
According to the report, news and current affairs programmes are the worst affected.
As people cancel their cable TV subscriptions, more and more are tuning in to their favourite shows online.
As such, the study predicted a big year for Netflix, as it aims to own the rights to more original content and invest over $6 billion dollars (£4.1 billion) to do so.
But public service media is predicted to be under threat – as the audience share declines, it is currently harder than ever to maintain support for universal taxation or licence fees.
The podcasting boom continues
Audio packages will continue to grow in popularity this year, the report said, matching the rise of streaming culture.
For podcast producers looking to share their work online in a more efficient way, Newman highlighted Clammr – a tool that makes it easier to share snippets from longer audio reports on social media, encouraging more people to tune in and engage.
Spotify also announced it was planning to incorporate podcasting on the platform, potentially opening quality speech radio to a much wider audience in 2016.
New social sharing and publishing options
In 2015, Twitter maintained 350 million active users every month, while Instagram reached 400 million monthly users on the platform for the first time.
These "digital giants" will be aiming to capitalise on their huge user-bases with new "services and functionality" to take on Facebook – which recorded one billion users a day for the first time in 2015.
Newman explained in the report that social networks will enable news organisations to distribute content much easier than before, as evident from the launch of Facebook Instant Articles, and even from rumours of Twitter increasing its character limit.
Social networks are also looking to increase the amount of "emotional sharing options" online, he said, such as offering a greater range of emoji for readers to use when posting reactions to news stories.
And as more people use social networks to post eyewitness media, Newman noted that other possible additions in 2016 could be more buttons to help verify accuracy, which could minimise the sharing of hoax pictures and posts around news events.
Snapchat was singled out in the study as one platform to watch, with its expanding Discover feature for publishers and live events coverage trials – Live Stories – that could provide interesting curation when news breaks.
The report includes many other predictions, such as the growth of crowdsourcing and membership schemes, or seeing 2016 as the breakthrough year for robot journalism. Check out the full report here.
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