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A Post-COVID Era For The Media Industry – OpEd

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This week Vice, the giant digital media and broadcasting company, unveiled its Metaverse headquarters to deepen its connection with its community. To keep up with new trends set by the ever-growing technology industry and to survive in the long-term, the media industry will need to continue reinventing itself. British media outlets should perhaps take inspiration from Australia, Scandinavia, and the Gulf; where efforts to guarantee media longevity have attracted praise. 

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Today, more than half of the West relies on social media for their news. For that very reason, Australia voted the world’s first media legislation on Google and Facebook news earlier last year. In an effort to save the media industry, this new law forces Google and Facebook to negotiate a fair payment structure with news organisations, which enables using their content on news feeds. Nadine Dorries, British Culture Minister, announced in an interview this week that she was looking at implementing a similar system in the UK. 

The rise of social platforms has been both a blessing and a curse for media. Though a direct competition to traditional media, many journalists have grown large communities of readers on these platforms. The strength of the media industry today is also based on the diversity of formats it can operate on. From live podcasts broadcast on Twitch to short documentaries on Instagram, in 2022 the media industry will have to play with various formats. Not only will this allow more creativity, but it will also be an opportunity for traditional media to compete with the giant multi-national hubs that have already conquered British audiences, be they Buzzfeed, Brut, as well as Vice.

An even more spectacular format was used by the Financial Times after Mark Zuckerberg repositioned Facebook as a ‘Meta’ company with its products aimed at operating on virtual reality, sometimes called the metaverse. In fact, the newspaper famous for its print edition filling the lobbies of office buildings around the world, ended the year with a virtual interview of Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, that was set in the metaverse.

As well as jumping into the Metaverse, the media industry will also have to consider the role of AI in their reporting. For some time, media companies have maintained a global presence by collaborating with each other, supplementing their resources to maximise the impact of their reporting.  

AI has the potential to play a role here. Though journalists fear robots will overtake their roles, certain major Scandinavian media outlets, such as Swedish Mittmedia, have already begun using the technology to generate short, automated articles. At its best, automation could enable journalists to be more creative in an industry, freeing their hand to focus on more analytic pieces. Given declining margins however, this technology may yet have a greater role to play as was highlighted during the JournalismAI Festival, held at the end of 2021.

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Expanding and reaching new audiences will also be key for the survival of the traditional media. In that regard, the world should look to the UAE, where efforts to draw media attention to them is matched by their efforts to establish themselves as a media hub for the Middle East. Nowhere is this global outlook clearer than in the hosting of global events, such as the UAE’s Expo 2020, an impressive platform which shows allies how the Gulf’s interests align with the wider world. No doubt that same vision will be on show in November, when the Emirates News Agency will host the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi and place the focus on innovation within the industry.

Simultaneously, efforts should be made to establish and consolidate relationships between media outlets and other entities. As an opportunity for media outlets based in different regions of the globe to outreach to new audiences, partnerships help outlets develop existing internationally. Such is the case of the partnership between the Saudi Green Initiative and the London Evening Standard in order to produce content regarding the kingdom’s actions to tackle climate change.

2022 will be another make or break year for the media. 

The media has always been concerned about its long-term future, but with the likes of the metaverse, automated journalism, and the increasing prominence of new social media platforms there are plenty of reasons to think that this could be another year that upends the industry. To guarantee their commercial longevity, media leaders should take heed of lessons of tried and tested models globally.

*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, and an advisory board member of Harvard International Review. He can be reached at [email protected]

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