Our 2019 challenges: Voice, Video and new Visual Journalism

Next year, our profession will have to overcome a VVV challenge. We value your help in shaping the upcoming GEN Summit, so please reach out to us if you have any suggestions for speakers, sessions and new formats of interaction with the audience.

Anticipating months in advance what the next hot topics of the news industry will be is becoming more and more difficult every year because of the speed of media innovation: how can we predict what will be relevant for an editor-in-chief in June 2019 during the fall of 2018? Nevertheless, at the Global Editors Network, we like to take risks and, so far, they have paid off: in 2017, we said that there was a platform crisis and in 2018, we focused the GEN Summit on AI, machine learning and blockchain.

  1. Voice and Voice AI are the obvious topic for 2019. All the editors who I met in the last six months have become obsessed with smart speakers offered by Amazon, Google and Apple. There are already 47 million smart speakers next to people’s couches in the United States and there are 220 million adults in the country. According to Chartbeat, this number could double in the next six months. It means this mass phenomenon will very soon have a serious impact on how news will be consumed. Who will be the winners of this new battle? Big conglomerates, local news providers, or infotainment companies? What will the speed of adoption be in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa? It seems obvious that countries with strong public or private broadcasters will be at the top of the evolution, but what about new agile players?
  2. Video is the second priority for next year. Kevin Delaney, Quartz editor, said that we’re entering ‘the golden age of video journalism’, an idea that I am taking very seriously, even if the “pivot to video” strategy failed for some media organisations. It means YouTube videos will lose their current monopoly in the upcoming years. Think about the new wave of live events, anticipate news shows on Facebook Watch and very soon on Netflix, imagine new formats based on vertical or square videos on Snap and Instagram and you’ll immediately understand that we’re in a new era for video journalism. And it is only just beginning.
  3. Why are we talking about visual journalism as the third challenge? The word seems a bit outdated or overused, but 2019 will be the year of new storytelling methods based on a real integration of texts, sounds, videos and data-vizs. New software will help us to conceive new ways of telling stories, as well as AR experiments on your smartphones or new devices such as smart glasses or smart watches. The human brain is ready to welcome these new ways to tell stories, but we’re still waiting for a new generation of storytellers. 2019 will be also the year of the first experiments for monetising visual journalism (and this has never happened before).

Our industry is of course facing other issues, including two more V challenges: Verification and value of news. Journalists will continue to have to fight misinformation, propaganda, and rumours. Rather than just producing news, they will have to manage and control what happens on social media and closed messaging apps. In terms of value, new membership and subscription models are based on the idea that users are ready to pay for exclusive or personalised information and that micropayment systems can allow newsrooms to reach a very fragmented audience. While these issues are already well framed, we will continue to discuss them and strive to find new solutions at this year’s GEN Summit.

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