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We’re already in the midst of a massive technological transformation in how news is made, how it is distributed, and how it is consumed. The Internet, mobile devices and social media have already put many news publishers out of business. And that transformation is only going to intensify over the next five years, thanks to the rapid pace of technological innovation.
According to one study led by a NYU professor and futurist, there are in fact 75 different technological trends – including drones, virtual reality, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence – that are about to blow wide open the traditional news ecosystem.
Technology’s transformative effect on the news
If you think about it, the Internet has already radically changed the game for traditional publishers. “Citizen journalists” now report from the scenes of disasters. In far-flung foreign locales where news organizations can no longer afford to have a presence, they rely on social media and video images from amateurs for their content.
And, thanks to the rise of social networks, they have been forced to adapt their distribution according to the needs of Facebook and Twitter, not the other way around. Stories are created specifically for maximum distribution across these platforms. They are often published first on social media, then on the media company’s own website.
The voice interface is one tech trend to watch
One big tech trend that could begin to have an impact sooner than you think is the voice interface, as popularized by the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. By 2023, according to the report, 50% of all interactions between people and their computers will involve voice commands. We will be speaking to machines about the news, and we will rely on them to be fair, accurate and unbiased.
For example, think about how you currently sit down with your morning coffee and catch up with last night’s sports scores. Most people still instinctively turn on ESPN in the morning, or check out mobile apps with news about their favorite teams. But, thanks to voice interfaces, you could just ask a voice assistant to read you the scores, saving you the need to deal with a media intermediary (“Alexa, who won the Eagles game last night?”).
Where things get really interesting is when you bring in artificial intelligence. Right now, if you ask Alexa to tell you who won the Eagles game last night, “she” has to tell you the answer. But what if, thanks to new advances in AI, Alexa begins to sense your agitated emotional state from your voice patterns and begins to change the way she delivers you the news. If the Eagles lost last night, “she” might not want to agitate you further. What if Alexa begins to pick and choose which news sites are “appropriate” for you, given your fragile emotional state?
Tech companies now control the news ecosystem
Ultimately, technology companies, not media companies, will write the future of news. Companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google now have increased their power over the news ecosystem because they control not just the content distribution (i.e. what you find in search results), but also the physical devices being used to deliver the device.
People no longer read physical print newspapers, and they are no longer dependent on “paper boys” throwing them a bunch of dead tree content early in the morning. They are reading the news on devices made by Apple and Amazon and getting their news via technology intermediaries – like Facebook and Google. Gigantic printing presses are no longer required.
In the new digital ecosystem, even the proudest legacy media companies of the 20th century are buyers, not sellers. And that’s why publishing media is going to be in really big trouble in just the next five years once trends like artificial intelligence and voice interfaces really take off.