Breaking news: The news isn’t actually fake and people are willing to pay for it


This is part two of a two-part series. To read part one, click here.

I recently sat down with University of Oregon journalism professor Damian Radcliffe to pick his brain about the annual Digital News Report that was released by Reuters.

Just a recap in case you haven’t read the first installment of my conversation with Damian . Damian hails from the UK, has lived all over the world researching, writing and teaching about news, journalism, digital trends. He’s been in the Pacific Northwest for the past two years and has some fascinating insights about the future of the news industry.

I had the honor of chatting with Damian to gather his perspective on the future of news media. I found the conversation incredibly insightful and relatable for my role in corporate communications. I only had an hour with him but could have easily spent all day firing away questions.

What’s the big trend in media right now?
The big media trend in the U.S. right now is the varying level of trust in media outlets due to political preference. Furthermore, fake news is a very U.S. centric conversation and is used as a tool to achieve political objectives.

Is fake news going to change news?
The bigger question is, how do you move people aligned to the left or right back to the center? How do we move away from an environment that is becoming increasingly polarized? There is a huge level of distrust of news based on political views. Mistakes are pounced upon for political gain. As a result, opportunities for compromise and common ground seem nonexistent at this point.

Where can you find a balanced story?
Mainstream media outlets still do a great job. I encourage my students to listen to NPR, read the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal and many other outlets, but to do so critically.

Is there a notion that attention spans are shortening and news is just going to become less and less relevant?
It’s more a matter of how long-form reporting is being presented. There’s still a place for great long-form reporting in places like the New Yorker and, perhaps, unexpected outlets like GQ. The Serial Podcasts are a great example of incredibly popular long form reporting, told in bite sized pieces.

What’s on tap for news in the year ahead?
I have a close eye on a few trends:

  1. Whether distrust in the media will increase or level off. Will we see even more polarization with distrust in the news based on political views or will people start to move back to the center?
  2. This year we’ve seen what’s called the “Trump Bump,” an increase in private funding for news outlets due to a civic act to support journalism. I will be interested to see if more people decide that news is something they want to support financially. And to that point, will the “Trump Bump” continue to convert people to fund independent journalism or will it level off?
  3. The willingness to pay for news, more generally, through pay walls and subscriptions will either rise or level off.

How about the role of emerging technology in news—what’s next?
We’ll continue to see the emergence of new platforms like SnapChat and Instagram in news reporting. We’ll also start to see augmented reality and virtual reality used more in the news, including at a local level. Lastly, content designed exclusively for mobile should become standard, if it isn’t already.

Should we start to think of news as a commodity?
A few years ago, we were talking about the death of music and films due to emergent online platforms like Pandora, Netflix and Amazon. Today, many people see this as a turning point in increasing the value and quality in entertainment. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a growing trend in the news industry. It’s certainly possible.

We’ve reached an unprecedented time in the transformation of news media. With transformation comes endless possibilities for how and what we communicate to audiences. Whether a reporter or PR professional, it’s imperative we create highly personalized and meaningful content that connects with audiences needs and beliefs.

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