People working in the news industry are more likely to think about the impact technology will have on journalism in the near future as opposed to how it will shape the industry in the next couple of decades, a survey from the Future Today Institute (FTI) has found.
The 'Global survey on journalism's futures' asked more than 300 people working in news, from journalists to managers and technologists, how often they think about the immediate, near and long-term future of news, as well as what their organisations are doing to address the way technology is shaping their field.
The study was launched during the Online News Association conference on 7 October and became available online on 9 October.
Staff between the ages of 44-64, who often hold leadership positions in newsrooms, tend to be more concerned about the immediate and near future of journalism than their younger counterparts, who are more likely to think about the next one or two decades of journalism at least once a month.
Some of the reasons why this happens are practical, said Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, including the fact that young people are "a bit more anxious about their own futures" since they are less likely to stay in the same job for several decades.
"[People in the 44-64 age group] tend to be the managers and many news organisations are still having serious budget problems and resource issues, and they're really just grappling with day-to-day operations, so it makes sense.
"On the other hand, it's not an excuse for not working on the future. In a way you're just preventing what you'll eventually have to deal with, and if you keep procrastinating and putting off planning for it, the future shows up and you won't have had any part in creating the reality that you now have to deal with."
The study found that staff in most news organisations tend to follow emerging trends (75 per cent) and perform some regular analysis of how they could influence the industry (63 per cent), but focusing more on the next 12 months to five years, rather than longer term (10+ years).
Some 53 per cent of respondents said they "rarely" think about the future of journalism in the next 10 to 20 years, and when asked about taking practical action, 78 per cent saying they "never do any longer-term planning or scenario mapping for the future of news".
There are several steps newsrooms can take to make it easier to introduce longer-term, strategical thinking, Webb said, from easier and low-cost approaches such as taking time to monitor at trends, to more complex ones, like getting futures training.
"Set aside half an hour once a week and have that time be for methodically looking for weak signals as they move from the fringe to the mainstream and to track trends.
"Think about, for example, where might we wind up five or 10 years from now if things went along their current trajectory with Facebook and Twitter? Or what are some ways we may be able to monetise voice-based experiences with news?
"On the opposite end of that, you can also spend some time reading and learning how to do fringe mapping and fringe sketching, look for patterns, build out data-driven scenarios and then test them."
Many of those surveyed in the report were optimistic about the near future of news, while fewer were confident about the next five to 10 years.
People pointed to mobile, developing new business models and finding a younger audience as some of the top priorities in the next 12 months to five years, while in the following five to 10 years they also awarded more importance to artificial intelligence, augmented reality and big data, among others.
The study was conducted between 4 August and 4 September 2017 with participants recruited through a variety of journalism associations, such as Online News Association and the Global Editors Network, as well as through social media and via email. Similar questions about technology and the future were also posed to a sample of US adults employed in other industries, in partnership with global market research and consulting firm Ipsos.
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