May 25, 2023 - Technology

Axios Finish Line: The future of media

Illustration of a newspaper with the Axios logo and a thought bubble.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Artificial intelligence will soon transform media on a scale and pace that rivals the internet two decades ago.

  • Why it matters: The media companies that survive — and thrive — will be those that adapt quickly to fast-changing consumer needs.

We have spent months talking to the people building the new AI technologies, and reflecting on how they can help — or harm — your ability to get high-quality content you can trust.

  • A lot of you ask about trust in media. So think of this column as prep for substantial changes coming to your news diet.

Eight transformations seem likely and are animating our thinking at Axios:

1. Expertise. The days of gaming social media algorithms are coming to an abrupt — and needed — end. Commoditized or general interest content will fade in value. Any company betting only on high traffic seems doomed. The demand for subject matter expertise will rise fast.

  • Prepare for a world of fewer big, generic brands — but more and better niche companies aimed at your passions.

2. Trust. AI will rain a hellfire of fake and doctored content on the world, starting now. That'll push readers to seek safer and trusted sources of news — directly instead of through the side door of social media.

  • Advertisers will shift to safer, well-lit spaces, creating a healthy incentive for some publishers to get rid of the litter you see on their sites today. That shift is already happening.

3. Direct relationships. Consumers will soon get awesome, fully written search results with ChatGPT-like technologies. You'll get smart answers — not links. This will slow or even cut off a highly valuable pipeline of web traffic for companies like Axios and force publishers to tighten our direct relationship with you, the customer/consumer.

4. Inbox platforms. Newsletters will rise in importance, as Microsoft and Google make emailing magically easy by helping you write, answer and sort emails. The inbox will be a more indispensable content destination and repository.

  • Some argue website homepages will rise in importance, too. But that strikes me as silly. That's not how consumers want content. They're accustomed to important stuff getting pushed to them.

5. Healthy content. There's simply too much doom and gloom on TV and many news sites. Consumers want and deserve a better mix of content, including healthy and helpful content.

  • That's what inspired Finish Line. This shift will be reflected in our evolving coverage of an AI-infused world.

6. Efficiency. Consumers want most news and practical information delivered as efficiently as possible. This will be even more true as new technology tricks and toys fight for your attention.

  • Efficiency will spread to video news, too. Network and cable news will fade or die, given the aging audience and dwindling ratings. The need to see news won't die. But younger audiences will want it shorter, and on-demand.

7. More depth. As most content gets shorter, consumers will have a little more time for podcasts and deep-dive content like magazine-style articles. But the demand for those to be truly excellent and consumer-first will rise, too. The middle — boring stories journalists write for themselves or to fill holes on a website — will die.

8. Information inequality. There has never been a better time for discerning readers to get high-quality content delivered exponentially more efficiently. This trend will accelerate. At the same time, there has never been an easier time to create and spread distracting, disgusting or deceitful information at scale, for peanuts. This trend will also accelerate.

  • This will give a massive edge to those who can smartly navigate and exploit the next explosion of media change.

The bottom line: Don't wait for companies, the government or social networks to decide what's high-quality content. Take ownership of what you consume by exploiting the good stuff — and shutting off the crap.

  • And be smart about what's coming.

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

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