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The Future of News Report
In-depth results of the first phase
Coordinated by the not-for-profit Deloitte Impact Foundation that harnesses Deloitte’s capabilities for the benefit of society, The Future of News project is exploring the potential news landscape in 2030.
Why the future of news is so important
The news industry is in flux. There is growing market consolidation and a ‘concentration of power’, as media conglomerates and tech players continue to acquire traditional news outlets. Technology, particularly artificial intelligence, is increasingly being used to automate and personalize the production of news. Many of us are worried about disinformation, filter bubbles and echo chambers, amid signs of foreign interference and escalating social tensions.
Deloitte Digital Consumer Survey – select countries, 3,619 respondents between 18-75)
As content filtering and recommendations algorithms are widely employed by media groups, a number of start-ups and scale-ups are deploying technologies to increase transparency, including watermarks to prove authenticity, blockchain-verified authorship or timestamps. The falling cost of digital technologies is also making it easier to report on and distribute news. That could make for a more diverse and competitive news industry.
How will these developments impact the news sector, the way we consume news, and us as a society? How can we prepare for such an uncertain future and provide safeguards to sustain and strengthen the value of news? This project explores the answers to these questions. The Deloitte Impact Foundation, as the not-for-profit arm of Deloitte, is not directly involved in the news industry, and thus can play a facilitative role and stimulate a broad dialogue amongst a wide range of international news and media experts about a future of news that adds value to all layers of society.
Future of News scenarios – four plausible possible futures
For phase 1 of the Future of News project, input was sought from international news and media experts from both public and private organizations, ranging from tech startups, to research institutions, to news broadcasters, to not-for-profits focused on journalism and European Commission expert groups. As a result, four plausible scenarios of how news in Western democratic societies may develop between now and 2030 have been identified.
Regardless of which scenario plays out, there will be major implications for the stakeholders involved (citizens/news consumers, traditional news outlets, big tech platforms, journalists and governments/regulators). The next steps will be to describe how society can anticipate these scenarios and identify the legal and regulatory, technological, and societal foundations and related initiatives required to secure the future value of news. The concept of the ‘future value of news’ will be researched further in phase 2, however, may encompass certain characteristics such as the importance to have equality of access to news within a multiform media landscape, to respect the freedom of expression and to ensure the provision of news facilitates the public debate to discuss diverse and challenging voices and opinions.
A Deloitte Impact Foundation study
The Deloitte Impact Foundation harnesses Deloitte’s core competences, knowledge and network to make a positive impact in the fields of education, sustainability and an inclusive society. Through pro bono work, we help to build a stable society, addressing pressing challenges, such as living conditions, health, loneliness, safety and economic welfare.
The Deloitte Impact Foundation is conducting the Future of News study to contribute to the broader debate regarding how the evolving news landscape can accommodate different viewpoints and enables citizens to freely express their opinions. As encapsulated in Article 11 of the Charter of the European Union, equal access to diverse sources of news, regardless of income, is vital to the preservation of democracy and stability.
The Future of News project team draws on multiple competencies from within Deloitte, ranging from strategy consulting and scenario planning (see also the Future of Television, the Future of Advertising and the Future of Screens) to risk and crisis management and legal. Leveraging our reach, multidisciplinary approach and a field of international news and media experts, results in a diverse set of relevant perspectives that we can deliver together with a clear emphasis on societal impact.
Future of News | Phase 1 – Imagine the future
During the first phase of the study, Deloitte acted as a facilitator, bringing together various public and private organizations in the news and media landscape. The Deloitte Center for the Long View contributed to the research by leveraging its extensive scenario planning experience and expertise. Drawing on over 30 expert interviews and a review of 8 million articles by the Center for the Long View’s Deep View tool, the project team identified 96 social, technological, economic, environmental and political factors that will likely shape the future of news.
In series of scenario workshops the team of international news and media experts ranked these driving forces by level of impact and degree of uncertainty and grouping them revealed four themes, both critical and uncertain in relation to the future of news.
Figure 1 - 96 driving forces behind the Future of News
The team subsequently used the themes to select the two independent axes of our Future of News scenarios.
Figure 2 - Future of News critical uncertainties
The first variable is the role of the tech sector in news, and the second variable is the level of trust between news consumers (citizens) and news providers (journalists). Plotting these two variables in a matrix led to the identification, in conjunction with a diverse range of experts, of the following four scenarios:
Figure 3- Future of News Scenarios
- The News Utopia (high trust/diverse news sources, less dominated by tech): the news landscape is a vibrantly diverse ecosystem, characterized by pluriformity and healthy competition between traditional news outlets and the tech sector. The level of market consolidation is low. Most news consumers have easy access to a very broad range of news sources and technology provides a means to check their origin, fact base, level of interpretation and inherent biases. Yet, there is still a risk that some consumers retreat into trusted filter bubbles in which they only consume news from a limited number of sources.
- Benevolent Big Tech (high trust/few news sources, dominated by tech): many news outlets are absorbed by tech platforms that seek an equilibrium between broad news access and capitalizing on news consumers’ willingness to pay. As many investors value relevance, the tech platforms invest more in impactful journalism. Meanwhile, some investors also fund “tech for good” start-ups developing technologies that look to ensure the trustworthiness of news. Yet, these technologies can also be subverted for manipulative reasons and such subversion may be hard for news consumers to detect.
- Ignorance is Bliss (low trust / few news sources, dominated by tech): many news outlets and staff are acquired by big tech platforms, increasing the level of market consolidation and leaving control in the hands of a few. With news generally distributed via ‘free’ platforms, business models become more advertiser-focused and cost-conscious. As they seek high returns on their investments, big tech platforms may compromise on the depth and breadth of journalism. At the same time, competition between the tech platforms may partially mitigate these factors, while some news consumers will seek alternative sources or advance their digital literacy skills to circumvent filter technologies.
- Multidimensional tribes (low trust / diverse news sources, less dominated by tech): although a diverse news landscape encompasses all forms of content and perspectives, news consumers tend to focus on familiar perspectives and sources. This encourages precise targeting and content filtered to their interests. These filter bubbles may result in just a small number of “trusted” sources providing each tribe or audience with what they want. Only a few news consumers have the drive or the means to travel between tribes, seeking diverse perspectives and confronting themselves with perspectives not completely aligned with their own.
Future Of News | Phase 2 – Prepare for the future
In phase 2, the aim of the Future of News project is to propose recommendations for safeguards and initiatives to secure the future value of news within society. In particular, the following three topics will be addressed:
- The potential impact of the four future scenarios on traditional news outlets, news consumers, tech platforms, journalists and the government/regulator.
- A set of indicators (such as independence, transparency, inclusiveness, accessibility, and level of market consolidation) that can be measured to determine the state of the future value of news within the four future scenarios and what type of safeguards would be necessary to strengthen the future value of news.
- Recommendations regarding safeguards and initiatives to secure the future value of news within our society. We will likely make recommendations for regulators, traditional news outlets, the tech sector, and governmental bodies as well as individual news consumers.
All three topics will be considered across the societal, legal and regulatory and technological dimensions (see graphic below).
Figure 4 - Preparing for the Future of News - the research dimensions
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