January has been a sobering month for the media world. TechCrunch laid off eight staff members and cancelled its paid subscription product TC+, in an announcement that came alongside another wave of cuts, including Time Magazine, Forbes, Los Angeles Times and Business Insider. On Friday 26th January, the leading finance publication AltFi closed its doors after 10 years, and according to Reuters, Sky is planning to cut at least 1,000 jobs this year.
This decline is worrying. Because it begs the question: what fills the gap? Readers are loyal to all of these publications, because, fundamentally, they trust their journalism. So what do they start to trust if earned media declines, particularly in such a big year for democracy?
The advent of AI, advertising monopoly, election interference and harmful disinformation are just a few reasons why big tech is not considered as trustworthy as it once was either. In the US, trust in large tech companies declined from 32% in 2020 to 26% in 2023, according to Gallup. Regulators are applying the pressure on tech giants to follow stricter compliance and competition rules, and mandating the sharing of their AI models for risk assessment. With AI-generated texts and deep fakes on the rise, this scrutiny is also reflected in the news industry, as readers increasingly mistrust what they read and see.
Here’s what marketing and communications teams can do to navigate these challenges in 2024 👇
1. Focus on building quality media relationships
When there’s trust issues boosted by AI interference, the key remedy will be delivering quality earned media coverage. This is especially important in 2024 when millions of people will head to the polls worldwide. Readers today are quick to recognise what is a paid article, and they are getting savvier at pinpointing AI-generated keywords in copy. That’s why PR professionals should focus more on building strong relationships with relevant journalists who are trusted experts. As journalists leave the industry and publishers undergo restructuring, those who stay become even more in demand – and it will be key to catch their interest with high-quality storytelling.
2. Understand global regulatory scrutiny and market disruption in the advertising market
In the last few months, Google AdSense changed its revenue-share structure with publishers, paying them per impression, not per click, which disrupts the legacy model. It also demands publishers adhere to Better Ads Standards to prevent pop ups and other interruptive ads disrupting the digital experience. However, recent data shows that the ad revenue of Google’s parent company – Alphabet – has stagnated. The company is also threatened by anti-trust lawsuits. Last year, the US justice department sued Google for monopolising digital advertising technologies. While this may not be the primary cause of struggles for newspapers and publishers, all of this contributes to the broader commercial landscape they navigate. Therefore, it is important to understand how disruption and scrutiny impact the broader digital ecosystem, including online news, and where direct commercial relationships could be beneficial for your clients long-term.
3. Collaboration is key
Clear and authentic collaboration between PR professionals and journalists is crucial to delivering compelling and trustworthy content in 2024. As media outlets fight for survival and cut their workforce, the remaining journalists find themselves busier than ever. This creates an appetite for relevant business expertise from content-savvy PR pros. An experienced comms professional will understand the needs of journalists, and think one step ahead when crafting the right story. A collaborative approach could also mean more of a heavy lift for PRs, particularly with certain trade press outlets, which are low on resources.
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