On this week’s episode of Media Voices Richard Reeves, CEO of the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) here in the UK, talks to us about the issues and roadblocks surrounding diversity and inclusion efforts in media. He discussed initiatives publishers are using to improve DE&I, problems of retention, and how ageism impacts women particularly.

In the news round-up, the team takes a look at the Reuters Institute’s latest Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions report, created after it surveyed 300+ media executives from around the world. We talk about where the smart money lies, which tech trends are non-starters, and ask to what extent AI is changing the landscape of journalism.

Here are some highlights:

Whether the industry deserves its reputation as being unwelcoming of diverse professionals

It’s not something that we’re particularly proud about, but I think collectively as an industry there’s a lot of work being done to address that perception. But it doesn’t come without some substance. It’s really about people feeling comfortable that they belong in an industry and that they themselves can see themselves represented within that industry.

One initiative I do admire is the [Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA] All In Census. Bobi Carley shared some statistics at our session… you can’t sugarcoat the findings, they’re statistics. The findings suggested that around 32% of black people, 27% of Asian people and 20% of people with disabilities would leave this industry because they don’t feel like they belong.

There is very definitely progress in recruitment of more diverse talent. But many still feel that there isn’t enough being done within their companies to help these people thrive. Many feel that they don’t have the same equal opportunities to progress.

I would like to temper that with an observation. When you have [all these] initiatives… there is clearly a commitment and some progress being made. There is definitely the will and the want, certainly amongst the community that we work with.

It will only get better if we listen and learn from each other, and avoid being defensive. You cannot turn a deaf ear to voices that are rightfully demanding to be heard within your organisation. We’re not going to get there overnight, but we are on journeys.

Change from the top

While we may be appearing to be developing the right approach in terms of attracting more diverse representation within our organisations at entry level, we have to continue to hold the light on ourselves and ask, is this being done at board level? Can you honestly say that this approach is reflected throughout the organisation? Can these people coming in at entry level see themselves reflected throughout their organisation?

There is an inclination to gravitate towards, right, well now we’ve got people who represent different communities within our organisation, let’s bring them together every month so they can chat amongst themselves. If they’re not empowered to expand that conversation so that everybody is a part of it and touched by it, then nothing will change.

One of the starting points for every organisation is to look at itself at every level. And for this to succeed, it really needs to be a culture driven from the very top.

Having the conversation

A lot of these organisations are run by people like you [Peter] and myself, who have been in the industry for 30 odd years and risen through the ranks. But that’s not to say that we’re not capable of recognising the limitations of what came before, and what the opportunities are going forward. Whether it takes a 57 year old, white, middle-aged man who runs a newsroom to identify and then embrace this or whether it’s because of a more diverse newsroom where people are representing other opinions and the collective of that newsroom recognises the opportunity, there are opportunities.

I’d like to believe there is a genuine desire from within those communities who have – if you like, had limited views around certain things – to expand their knowledge and to embrace other opinions so they can become better balanced and better informed about their own approach and application in life.

We’re got an enormous amount to do. But people like yourself and myself who may sit in a certain box, there is nothing out there that says we shouldn’t be having the conversation. In fact, to the contrary. We have a responsibility to not only open our minds, but to challenge our peers and those around us that look and behave in similar ways to make sure that we encourage everybody to open their eyes a bit and reconsider.

Top story: The Reuters Institute’s Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023

The Reuters Institute has published its latest Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions report after surveying 300+ media executives from around the world. We can recommend summaries from What’s New in Publishing and Twipe if you haven’t had chance to read the whole report yet.

  • Overall confidence for the year ahead is down to 44% from 75% at the beginning of 2022.
  • Unsurprisingly subscriptions are seen as the most important revenue stream for 80% of them, with 68% expecting some or a lot of growth in subscriptions and paid content income this year.
  • Also interesting is that podcasts and newsletters are where most publishers said they’ll be putting more resources this year according to 72% and 69% of them respectively.
  • Digital video has also seen an increase in priority but the metaverse/AR/VR has dropped from 8% last year to just 5% this year.
  • Platforms are not high on the agenda. Facebook received a -30 net score in planning for publishers. Twitter was only -28. Others get positive scores – TikTok (up 19 at 63), Search, Instagram, YouTube.
  • Most publishers are now routinely using AI tools, mostly for app and website content recommendations. Report author Nic Newman predicts an “explosion of automated or semi-automated media in the next few years – for good or ill”.

News in brief:

  • Podcasts are both one of the biggest and best opportunities for publishers this year, and also one of the biggest losers as the recession begins to bite. The former assertion comes from YouGov, which states that 13% of respondents from the UK said they would increase their use of podcasts this year, while the latter comes from a Vulture survey of people working in the podcasting space. There’s actually no contradiction in the two assertions – one is about audience growth and the other is around monetisation – but it is a little worrying that industry practitioners are less confident than they were about podcast revenue.
  • Ben Smith’s first Media newsletter of the year for Semafor was interesting. As he said in his first line, it’s a strange time to be optimistic about global media, but he is, listing six reasons for his New Year cheer. Semafor’s list is pretty niche – a revival in local news, the rise of Apple TV, China Substacks, scepticism in Crypto journalism, a return to alternative voices on Twitter, and a new crop of aggregators. But the headline reason to be cheerful is the death of what Smith calls the Media Monoculture. He sees publishers working once again with their audiences rather than just filling the social media firehose with what people want to see and hear.
  • Nine Reach regional brands are adopting a ‘newsletter-led approach’, meaning the websites are no longer their ‘flagship’ means of content delivery, according to Press Gazette. It trialled the model with five regions in November, and is now adding four more. In Norfolk for example there’s a daily news update, but they’re also promoting newsletters for England football, NFL, Bake Off, TV and Film and more. Some of those generalist ones are being cross-promoted heavily across different local titles, but some have far more newsletters on offer. There will be no job losses on those sites changing to the newsletter model, but this news does come the same week they announced 200 redundancies across the business.

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