So, what does the media look like in 2018?

It was difficult to think of four people better qualified to speculate about what lies ahead in 2018 in terms of stories, the state of the media, technology trends and issues to be aware of from a Christian perspective than our panel which convened in London Bridge at the end of last month.

Ably chaired by Green Rock Director of Content Tim Plyming, the panel comprised Apolitical Policy Reporter – and former Newsweek Staff Writer – Josh Lowe, Christianity magazine Editor Sam Hailes, BBC Radio Digital Producer Lynda Davies and WTalk Network Founder Tobi Olujimmi.  

The Q&A kicked off with the panel’s new technology predictions for 2018. Lynda said voice technology and how we speak to our mobile devices will be an area to watch, while Tobi pointed out that social media will continue to be a crowded market place. Sam said that Facebook – which recently announced big changes to its news feed – is likely to continue placing more emphasis on videos. At the same time there is likely to be more debate over Rupert Murdoch’s suggestion that Facebook should pay “trusted publishers” for their content. There is likely to be a massive battle between Facebook and the rest of the media, Sam predicted.

Josh said another interesting area to watch was whether in a digital world publishers would rediscover the idea of meeting the editorial requirements of a specific group of people as Politco.com had done so successfully. Tobi said that loneliness was another facet of modern life that is likely to be more of a problem in future, especially given the fact that London is a city that is known to struggle with this social malaise. She said that the role of social media in creating a community response to the problem would be critical.

Lynda said that we are also likely to see the continued growth of audiences who like to be in control of their viewing material – whether using Spotify, Netflix or other outlets. Both she and Sam said that podcasts are likely to remain prominent – it was pointed out that you can make podcasts about anything and you will find an audience – even if some people have no idea what a podcast is.

Josh said that the use of the internet to garner support for political or campaigning issues was interesting – the way anti-blood sports activists galvanized opposition to Theresa May’s proposed foxhunting reforms during the last election was an interesting example of this, he said.

Lynda said that General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) – mean that all of us are going to have to be much more careful about how we treat data – for journalists in particular it raises important questions about data should be used and how it is protected. Are deleted Instagram videos for example permanently lost or can they be recovered?

Turning to the issue of fake news, Josh pointed out that misinformation, spin and rumour-presented-as-fact have been around since time immemorial, but the rise of social media meant the power block was shifting. That is why it is critically important for the mainstream media to re-establish trust. Sam pointed out that the New York Times had done this, as its circulation figures had increased. But the recent interview by Channel 4’s Cathy Newman with clinical psychologist and professor Jordan B Peterson was an example of the mainstream media getting it wrong.  Tobi pointed out that as Christians in the media it is not always necessary for us to defend our faith and that it is important that social media is used to encourage diversity of thought rather than reinforce our prejudices. Lynda said it would be good to revive the art of disagreeing amicably in 2018.

Finally, panelists were asked to recommend material worth viewing/reading in 2018, including subscribing to podcasts Cooper and Carey Have Words and Unbelievable by Premier’s Justin Brierly podcasts, as well as keeping up with the writing of Aisha Gani on Buzzfeed.

We’d love to keep these conversations going strong as we delve deeper into this year and uncover the news stories it has yet to offer – so we encourage all of our community to keep sharing insights and information that will help all of us in our day to day work in such a quickly changing industry.

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