Five future tech trends that media businesses need to watch

Technology developments that only recently felt in the realms of science fiction: such as voice and visual search, AI and blockchain are now being explored by innovative digital media businesses.

At the Digital Innovators Summit in Berlin in March, some mind blowing concepts were shared, and the audience of publishers realised that they needed to do some more research.

These are five technologies that you need to watch…

1. Voice

Using services like Alexa or Siri or Google Assistant is becoming a very popular way for people to search and consume quality content. Comscore predicts that 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Harvard Business Review provides a management tip of the day on Alexa and publishes podcast series on topics such as women at work, and “Dear HBR” which answers readers’ questions. They measure the value of podcasts through reader engagement: comments and shares.

Washington Post publishes a 3-5 min politics flash briefing on Alexa every weekday and has hundreds of thousands of listens a month. They have also created a news quiz skill for Alexa.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Multiple start-ups are using AI to analyse large data sets and provide intelligent answers an outputs.

AI is being used by the Washington Post to power content recommendations and generate article headlines, moderate comments and predict, remarkably accurately, which articles will go viral.

Associated Press is using AI to create summaries of longer copy, and generate templated articles, allowing journalists to focus on more creative tasks. Real time language translation will be another practical application for AI.

3. Chatbots and assistants

Chatbots are being used to automate simple customer requests.

Harvard Business Review has experimented with Facebook messenger, creating a daily update of top articles, and a slack bot. HBR Digital Head Maureen Koch had one key piece of advice for chatbots: do one thing well and try to get people to build a habit around it.

Digital news brand Quartz has built a mobile news service in the style of a chatbot.

4. Visual search

Visual search, where people can find similar images to a web image, or an object viewed through a mobile phone, is becoming more popular.

Start up SnapTech allows publishers, including Marie Claire, to offer shoppable versions of items shown on editorial pages.

Look magazine created a new ecommerce platform working with a select group of retailers, that finds high street equivalents of front row and street fashion.

5. Blockchain

Blockchain is perhaps best explained as a highly secure permanent ledger, with built in identity, payment and directory, as opposed to the free web where these functions are provided by commercial organisations such as Google and Paypal. A number of start ups are building content management systems for independent publishers and to promote sustainable journalism.

US based startup Civil, backed by Ethereum has a group of pilot publishers who will use its publishing tools and proprietary tokens for transactions. Subscribers will be able to pay for content in ordinary currency or tokens. PubliQ is another media ecosystem built on blockchain.

Planning your experiments

So these are all technologies to watch, and potentially experiment with. Maureen Hoch of Harvard Business Review advised publishers to set clear targets and measures of reach or engagement before embarking on new experiments.

Read more about how AI could affect media brands.


This article is part of a series based on speakers and panels at the Digital Innovators Summit: you might also want to read:

Seven new digital business models for media owners

The new digital storytelling rules: how journalism is changing

How publishers should engage with social platforms

New thinking on digital subscriptions: 8 successful strategies



If you’d like to discuss how these tech trends could affect your media business feel free to get in touch to have a chat over the phone or over a coffee.


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About the author:

Carolyn Morgan has over twenty years experience launching, growing, buying and selling specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. Carolyn now advises publishers large and small on their digital strategy and writes and speaks on digital publishing strategy.

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