8 minute read

What is the future of the media?

No one knows, but the changes and trends we have witnessed in recent years encourage us to think and ask questions. We are sure that the existing business models, for some times now, have not been in favour of keeping the media a profitable business, and on top of that, AI has appeared. 

I will focus in this blog on several things that have already entered everyday life; maybe we are not yet sure what we want and can do with these new technologies, whether they are for us, and do we even have the luxury of thinking about whether we want to adopt them or not. 

For start, let’s become aware of the fact that the present moment a few decades ago was an unimaginable future. Also, let’s be aware of the fact that our present moment in some other location in the world is also an unimaginable future. It’s hard for people to think that way, primarily because of something called mental (in)flexibility. It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to us but needs to be developed and practiced if we don’t want to find ourselves surprised by the (unimaginable) future that lies ahead. As this applies to the whole society, it also applies to the media. 



Today, the 1995’s conversation between Bill Gates and David Letterman sounds almost unreal, when Letterman in his show questioned Gates about that Internet thing and why someone would need it to watch content, if we already have tapes and VCRs. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Sofie Hvitved, media expert from CIFS (Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies) at a workshop whose aim was to reflect on what the future of the media will be, not far away, in about 10 years. 

When we look at the available technologies, the interests and habits of media consumption and the media themselves, what we notice as trends are the following few things: 


  • Short formats have priority over longer formats, with a note that short formats are “hooks”; if the reader gets hooked, they like to consume longer content as well – this primarily applies to Gen Z, but not exclusively.


  • AI tools – the launch of numerous AI tools caused great hype; some embraced them immediately, and some haven’t even tried them yet; AI entered some newsrooms but some not at all; there are portals that have been generating almost automated content for some time now. It has its advantages and disadvantages. There are those who have realized that the AI tools can help them overcome creative blockages, improve storytelling, and suggest new angles from which to approach a particular topic. Of course, the fear of the impact of AI (which is still neither artificial nor intelligent – to simplify, what we have is a gigantic database that has an algorithm that presents its data to us through conversational language) is not unfounded. And the main basis for fear is lack of regulation – the best example is the las-year strike of Hollywood screenwriters. Globally, large newsrooms have embraced AI in such a way that they have created an editorial chat bot that they use for fact checking, research or reading large reports. Reuters has Lynx, The Washington Post has Heliograph, and the BBC has Juicer. Not one of them replaced a single journalist, nor did anyone get fired. These are new tools that speed up the process of research, verification, maybe help in some other boring or time-consuming processes such as spotting patterns. For now, this seems like the smartest way to train algorithms and use them in the day-to-day news business. The algorithm is also used in the analysis of readers, in order to create more effective and targeted advertising campaigns.


  • User generated content – everything is news today, people find it difficult (due to mental inflexibility) to evaluate relevant information. In most cases they fail to look critically at situations and fake news easily pass through our radars. A devastating statistic says that fake news has a 70% higher chance of becoming viral than true news. Why? Fake news aims to go viral, not to inform correctly. Fake news usually has some less sincere goals and is never boring, raising cortisol levels – usually through a negative narrative. The responsibility of the individual should be emphasized here, but it shouldn’t be relied on as a solution to the problem. Today’s human race has not learned to think critically. If we are to be honest and agree with Ricky Gervais, the average citizen of the world is a pretty stupid person (he goes so far as to put a question mark on the right to vote of such an “average” individual, of course, for the purpose of good humour). 



  • The creator economy – today everyone is a news creator. Correction – everyone is a content creator, and that content often becomes news, according to today’s low criteria – both  on the audience’s and the media’s side. The example is when the media conveys the comments of anonymous people under the post on the social network channel of a famous person as news. Sometimes, in order to increase the size of the article, they also copy – paste enlarged screenshots of those comments. This is a practice in which it’s better to insert more pictures than to write additional text. How did it come to this practice? Today, a journalist in the online media must produce dozens of different contents per day because the newsrooms are small and there is no one to do quality research and cover topics. The Reuters Institute announced last year that around 30% of readers use social networks as their main source of information, in contrast to 22% who find news on the media. It would be interesting to see in what percentage the media create news from content they picked up on social networks, creating clickbait headlines. Clickbait headlines are defined as a negative journalism technique. Another negative habit has spread in recent years from the West to us – “this will annoy you“, “this will disappoint you“, “this will enrage you“. The primarily right-wing media in America started this practice with the goal of political propaganda. Before reading the news, presenters would suggest to the listeners what they should think and how they should feel about information that they haven’t yet received. Again, a cheap rise in cortisol and easy management of that “average” man from Ricki’s joke. Our media did not wait and accepted this practice very quickly. All for Click and Click for all! There are a few media houses trying to keep their side of the street clean, so it’s gotten to the point where they too have started writing about this trend and wondering how stupid the media really thinks people are. The last such example I remember was when a cold front was coming to Croatia and no more and no less – the wind was supposed to blow. There are also positive examples of new media formats in the world that were created with the aim of maintaining unbiased and accurate reporting. Perhaps the best-known example is Semafor, a relatively new media company that has the concept of covering a certain topic with several journalists from different angles, in order to reduce the journalist’s bias. This is a media outlets that is currently living off the investment package it collected at the beginning of its establishment. So, it is not self-sustainable yet. I hope that it will become and initiate a positive change in the media space, globally. There are other good examples, e.g. Puck or Axios.


  • Social networks and hyper-personalized channels – we already use social networks for information much more than news portals; attention span doesn’t allow us to do otherwise because it is
    incredibly shortened. When I think that the next step in this relationship between consumers and the media could be hyper-personalized channels that would scan us better and faster than Tik Tok does today and serve only what we like and want to hear, I see only an even more polarized society. Will the paradox of today only deepen, in which we have never had so much information, but have never been so uninformed, not to say stupid. There are certainly good sides in this option, but somehow it seems to me that regulation is the key.


  • Media crisis – caused by almost all the above, but also by the inertness of the media themselves, some of which are still determined to refuse to accept changes. These are not big changes, they never really are, but a grain of curiosity, research, reflection is never out of place. It was interesting to recently observe the comments on the statement of the new head of CNN, who pompously declared in his first address that the media is facing colossal changes. Observers have rightly concluded that the media has been facing colossal changes for the last 20 years, but they have never arrived. One day someone will be right. It should also be considered the fact that today the average person in the developed world is exposed to an average of 34 GB of information during the day (that is the equivalent of 100,000 words). In the 1980s, it was about five times less. We have not adapted to it – this is the reason for our shortened attention span and lack of critical thinking. Who has time to observe and analyse each of the masses of information with healthy criticism. Let’s say that only 50 pieces of information per day from that pool are from the media, and let’s say that “only” 10 of them are “suspicious” – who has time to critically observe and reflect on that. 



The media is thinking about new directions

The Reuters Institute held a series of roundtable discussions during 2023. In particular, the discussion focused on the impact of GenAI on news production. The participants were representatives of large news houses, platforms, and experts in detecting misinformation. The main conclusions were that the vast majority of participants are willing to experiment with the possibilities offered by GenAI tools, especially when it comes to the possibilities of translating content into other languages, which could potentially open up new markets for them. On the other hand, they are still ready to first observe others experimenting, and then, based on their results, start using new tools themselves. A good portion of them stated that the use of GenAI tools is against their interests, but they were also extremely interested in the technical side with which these tools can detect disinformation. They are all concerned about the issue of copyright. 

And now when you look at what kind of challenges the media are facing, you can’t help but wonder what kind of future we are facing. The question is who is king in this new era – content or platform. When we talk about the future of media, should we really talk about the future of trust? Will there still be large media companies in the future or will each of us have our own personal AI journalist, or will one gigantic media company develop, which thanks to GenAI, will manage to generate news in all languages of the world and be a global informant? Is any of that our goal? It seems to me that today more than ever it’s important to make people aware that journalism is not a profession but a calling – the media should approach all these issues with the openness of researchers and the professionalism of truth seekers. 

When we look at our media scene, we also have those who can be categorized as early adopters. However, there are also those who are more inclined to wait, live on old glory and recall the times “when they were young”. They are the dangerous ones – by themselves. Their narrative is naive and misleading and is described by the famous sentence: “We’ve always done it this way.” 

Is the future of media the same as the future of AI? Of course not, nor should it be. The media need to find their way, rebuild their relevance, and all new AI tools that are yet to come should be there to help them in this as much as it is useful and profitable.


Renata Krajačić
Account Manager