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Trend Check-up: Are 2020 Journalism & Media Trends Changing in the Wake of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic

June 23, 2020

With 2020 well under way, now is a good time to revisit the predicted trends for this year—and those that are emerging. While it didn’t make many lists at the beginning of the year, there’s no doubt that one of the defining trends of this year will be the coronavirus pandemic and the new normal to come. But some of the emerging and continuing trends identified early in 2020 remain relevant—from combatting fake news to finding new revenue streams. Take a closer look:

Address the trust issue (again)

Trust has been in short supply in recent years. The rise of fake news, coupled with the widening political divide, has resulted in a cynical public. In these untrusting times, it is more important than ever to ensure that all the information presented to readers and viewers is credible. News consumers, according Pew Research, trust sources based on their personal political ideologies—with trust and distrust of new outlets widest among conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. If that’s not a big enough challenge, it’s an election year. Journalists and other media professionals will face plenty of competition in the form of misinformation campaigns and deep fakes, making access to news archives for on-the-fly fact checking critical. By combating fake news with impartial, timely reporting, media professionals can rebuild trust, story by story. Moving from a place of such limited and isolated trust, it is vital to get things right the first time to build confidence among news consumers.

Consider an alternative approach to the news

Last year, two reports predicted that the rising popularity of podcasts will create a $1 billion media market by 2021, writes What's New In Publishing. As a result, many media organizations are looking to extend their reach to current and new audiences by including audio. Organizations are creating podcasts covering the day’s news stories, serializing stories, covering interviews, and more. Some media outlets are working on putting audio to the text of articles to bring in still wider audiences, especially from younger generations with an affinity for virtual assistant devices. Each of these options opens new avenues for distributing news to more people. This also opens the potential for new revenue streams, the next trend on our list. 

Get creative on revenue generation

The two main sources of revenue for media outlets are, of course, reader subscriptions and advertisements. Most outlets use a combination of these two streams of revenue, so the question is the balance between them. Increasingly, subscriptions are outperforming ads in terms of revenue value. But paywalls can turn off casual readers, so publishers must look for new ways to commoditize news without alienating more casual readers. Many organizations do this already with membership levels and limits on free content.

Finally, recognize that your readers are weary

Late in 2019, Pew Research surveyed 12,000 Americans on what has become a persistent problem: news fatigue. Just as journalists and media professionals find the round-the-clock publishing pressure difficult, consumers express frustration the constant flow of news in their lives. The survey found that 66% of respondents “feel worn out by the amount of news there is.” And that was before COVID-19 began dominating headlines and leading local and national news programs, not to mention daily press briefings from local, state and federal officials.

Pew Research’s latest survey finds that:

  • 71% of Americans say they need a break from coronavirus news
  • 43% say the news “leaves them feeling worse emotionally”

No one expected that the biggest story of the year would be a new global pandemic, and yet here we are. New information on the virus is available all the time, not all of it from the most credible sources. That, too, is an issue for American news consumers. Pew Research reports that:

  • 50% of Americans have trouble determining whether news on the outbreak is true or not
  • 64% admit to seeing “some news and information about the coronavirus that seemed completely made up”

Unbiased, accurate reporting is critical, but journalists and media professionals also need to look for the positive stories to report—more than ever—to counteract the bad news burnout everyone is feeling. The crucial test is in balancing these needs. In this time of confused, contradictory information being peddled from all angles, Nexis® for Media Professionals can help you quickly substantiate facts, keep up with emerging news or search news archives for insights based on historical health crises across a vast source universe.