by Gabriel Muñoz

We’re less than 30 days into 2023 and there seems to be an influx of unfortunate, scary and strange events happening all at once around the world. From an ongoing war in Ukraine, the (almost) three-year-old COVID-19 pandemic ravaging China, atmospheric rivers flooding the West Coast, billionaire and Twitter CEO/owner Elon Musk wreaking havoc on the platform (daily) and the two most recent presidents, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, both being under (separate) special counsel investigations – and that’s just to name a few! The news cycle hasn’t stopped and it will likely get even more unruly and ferocious as we delve deeper into 2023.

However, through all the madness there are still a few trends (and predictions) we’re beginning to see that we believe PR professionals and journalists should pay attention to.

We’ve outlined four of these below:

1. Ongoing inflation and uncertainty will stifle journalism and continue to kill off the “newspaper”

According to The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s annual Digital News Report, “less than half of news publishers are confident about the year ahead.” American households continue to reduce their spending while advertisers pull back on their budgets as news publications deal with rising costs across the board. From legacy news companies like CNN, NPR and CNBC to “digital-born” ones such as Buzzfeed and Morning Brew, no one is particularly immune to the cuts. In addition, printed and online newspapers will shrink in 2023 (with some printed editions closing altogether).

2. News organizations will finally prioritize reporting on the climate crisis as it reaches new levels of urgency

In the Digital News Report, 303 media leaders in 53 countries were surveyed about what changes they’re making to improve their climate change coverage. Almost 50% said that they’ve “created a climate team to raise [the topic’s] profile.” These “climate teams” have already been implemented at numerous different publications, including The Washington Post, “which announced in November 2022 that it would be tripling the size of its climate team to 30 people” and at San Francisco Chronicle, which created its own weather science initiative called “California Weather Wonks.” These improvements at news organizations are occurring at a pivotal time as a newly released report confirmed that “climate change drove unprecedented heat waves, floods and droughts in recent years.”

3. Video, audio and newsletters in news media are more important than ever

The Digital News Report also showed that 72% of news publishers will put more resources into podcasts and other digital audio in 2023. According to the report, “most publishers see investing in podcasts and newsletters as the best way to build a deeper connection with audiences and to encourage them to come back more frequently.” As general news content reaches a level of overload, news publishers are interested in developing content that is unique and diverse, which can be included in existing subscriptions or offered separately at an additional cost. An example of this is The New York Times’ new audio product, which is slated to release in early 2023. The product will “include a significant upgrade on the idea of ‘reporter reads’ as each story starts with a personal intro from the reporter themselves with some biographical material and then a lightly illustrated treatment that may include some sound design or illustrated clips.”

This new human approach is a direct response to stories read by an AI or synthetic voices, which haven’t resonated with readers on many publishers’ websites. In addition, newsletters on a local news level will continue to rise in popularity as they’re seen as low-cost. Pioneered by 6AM City and Axios Local (with the latter purchasing the popular Substack newsletter, The SF Minute, in May 2022), 6AM City reached “around 1 million subscribers across more than 20 cities, with an expected revenue of more than $10M in 2022.”

4. Artificial intelligence (AI) will evolve into something entirely new in 2023

AI isn’t necessarily “new” (it originated in 1956), but in 2023, the program will take on an entirely new form. OpenAI, an American AI research laboratory, which received $1B in funding from Microsoft in 2019, released a free preview of ChatGPT, a next-generation chatbot, in December 2022. The chatbot “can tell jokes, come up with plots for a film or book, write computer code, and even summarize the challenges facing local journalism in a few sentences.” Many have cited ChatGPT as “one of the biggest technological advances since the invention of the internet” while others, including The Atlantic, declared the program “dumber than you think.” Another AI program, known as MidJourney, creates pictures “from just a few text prompts” and falls into a wider trend called ‘generative AI.’ This year, we’ll see journalists and curious internet users alike experiment with these new tools, opening up a new avenue of creation.

The news media is an integral part of our daily life more than ever before, but how individuals choose to consume it continues to evolve. While new and emerging technologies will always be a part of the story, a sense of “the human touch” will be more important than ever, especially as news publishers try to deliver trusted and authentic content while combating widespread misinformation on a worldwide scale.