Search engines for audio, investigating algorithms, and offline news consumption are some of the trends newsrooms should watch in the coming year, according to a report by the Future Today Institute.
Every year, the organisation publishes a report outlining technology trends of interest to various industries in the next 12 months, including journalism.
For 2018, the company has produced its first Tech Trends report focused specifically on the future of journalism and media, which became available online on 9 October after its official launch at the Online News Association conference two days prior.
The research features 75 emerging technology trends aimed at inspiring and informing news organisations' strategies in the coming year.
"My hope with this report is that news outlets will find people within their organisations who can track the trends internally on a regular basis, methodically and using tools in order to be better equipped for what's coming up on the horizon," Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, told Journalism.co.uk.
Like last year, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be a big focus for publishers in 2018, with more than half of the trends for next year being "somehow related" to AI, she added.
Here are five other trends from the report that journalists should bear in mind:
Investigative teams for algorithms and data
This trend refers to a need for news organisations to have investigative reporters who specialise in "investigating the algorithms and data itself", the type of work outlets such as NYT, ProPublica, WSJ and The Washington Post have already started doing.
As the information provided by algorithms, data sets and artificial intelligence systems is becoming more influential in our daily lives, reporters need to make sure they are able to spot bias or tampering that may have accidentally or intentionally been introduced by developers or creators.
"Especially in the wake of the elections, we have and will continue to have a need for journalists who are trained to investigate data and algorithms to help us make sense of what's happening," Webb said.
"That impacts not just newsrooms but also the training offered, and what and how up and coming journalists are learning in academic programmes."
As different European countries have or are trying to pass legislation removing certain types of content from search results, such as the 'right to be forgotten', the internet would end up 'splintered' into multiple versions.
For example, people could be seeing different search results according to their location, which might also make it difficult to gain access to journalism.
"I think that news organisations should be seriously watching Splinternets," Webb said. "Given the amount of proposed legislation, it's very likely that we could wind up in a world with multiple iterations and versions of the internet within a short period of time, which will pose a challenge to journalism and publishing, but also to democracy. "
Audio search engines
As audio and podcasts have become more popular with news consumers, one issue that producers and listeners are coming up against is discoverability through search and social media.
The report predicts that "with so much funding and development into voice interfaces, audio search will quickly become one of the most important tech trends in the years to come". People will be able to find the snippet they want to listen to without looking for the topic and related links first.
In Spain, Prisa Radio began testing a feature called Hertz earlier this year, which consists of adding tags and transcriptions to on-demand video content so that people can also find the audio when they search the web for a programme or the name of a host.
This trend, making an appearance in the study for the third time, draws attention to digital assets and archives that are broken or lost when a news organisation merges with another one, when it goes out of business or when its website is taken offline.
Examples of journalistic works that are no longer available are listed in the report, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation and a project about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. News organisations are advised to come up with solutions to preserve their digital archives.
"I don't see a lot of people talking about digital frailty, and since media consolidation is definitely on the radar, how do we preserve content that's important," Webb told Journalism.co.uk.
"But also what do we do in democratic nations where information is being scrubbed from the internet, as has happened in the US with the Trump administration? Is there a way for journalists to deal with that going forward?"
Offline is the new online
The 2017 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that news apps were making a comeback, attributed in part to an increase in push notifications. The next step? Making sure the content is also accessible offline.
Even though people spend hours of their day on their mobile devices, according to the Tech Trends research, they will still find themselves with a poor or entirely lacking internet connection at some points during their day and this is something news organisations should capitalise on.
"Until news consumers have ubiquitous access to cheap, fast data, offline reading will be a necessity," Webb wrote in the report. "News organisations that include seamless, offline experiences will find stickier audiences."
Free daily newsletter
- Reuters Institute's media trends and predictions for 2021
- Leveraging audio to drive subscriptions and memberships
- Where does journalism belong in an AI-powered news ecosystem?
- Opening the black box: algorithms, big data and artificial intelligence
- Under-35s feel 'less anxious' about getting news from trusted brands than on social media