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Challenges and opportunities in today’s media landscape: A first look into Streem’s 2023 report

By Angela Castles

November 30, 2023

Source: Adobe

Australia’s shifting media landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for the public sector going into 2024. Driven by rising fears of misinformation and a growing desire for diverse perspectives, the Australian public expects more from the news and entertainment they consume. 

Streem’s 2023 State of Australian Media report explores the five major trends shaping the media landscape today. For public sector leaders, these insights can act as a compass guiding policy decisions in the new year. Here are some key takeaways from the report. 

Changing news consumption in 2023

The Australian public still turns to the news as a key source of information, with 96% aged 14+ engaging with the news every month. The number of Australians paying for online news increased five percentage points to 22% over the past year. From a policy perspective, this indicates mounting concerns about widespread online misinformation. It also demonstrates Australians are willing to pay for well-researched, trustworthy information from credible sources. 

Public sector leaders should consider how to tailor communication strategies for both digital and print media to reach diverse audiences. In an unexpected resurgence for traditional print media, 11.5 million Australians engaged with print magazines last year, up 4.1% from 2022. This is an encouraging sign for publishers who have struggled with declining advertising revenue and dwindling readerships —and shows the staying power of print. 

57% of Australians choose to consume media both online and in print this year, so policymakers should consider how to tailor communication strategies to both these distribution channels. Beyond traditional newspapers, policymakers should consider a multi-channel media outreach strategy that speaks to diverse audiences wherever they choose to get their news.  

In a win for Australian policymakers and publishers, the recently legislated News Media Bargaining Code brought in an estimated $200 million in revenue in the last year. The success of this legislation is a signal to policy-makers that international Big Tech interests don’t outweigh the needs of the Australian media industry, and any imbalances in bargaining power will be addressed to support fair and sustainable public interest journalism.  

Misinformation casts a long shadow 

While the way we consume news as a nation has evolved, one thing remains: a desire for accurate and credible news. Concerns about misinformation have surged to 69% in the last year, a 5% increase from 2022, according to data within the report. 

Globally, Australians rank as some of the most worried about misinformation, on par with the USA, Brazil and the UK. This rise indicates a pressing need for public media literacy initiatives, including educational programs that increase public awareness of misinformation and how to identify it. 

Australia has already begun to tackle fake news and disinformation, creating a task force to address threats to electoral integrity. The AEC previously ran social media literacy campaigns to coincide with the most recent federal election —but much remains to be done. 

The recent Voice referendum acted as a lightning rod for questions about misinformation, media impartiality, and journalistic integrity. It attracted over 190,000 media mentions leading up to referendum day, with Sky News launching a channel dedicated to showcasing “every perspective of the debate” —though these perspectives were not always nonpartisan. This highlights the need for public media guidelines to be developed to ensure factual and unbiased coverage of culturally sensitive and complex subjects.

During the referendum, the AEC maintained a disinformation register that received over 100,000 tags on social media per week alone. To ensure balanced coverage of sensitive issues, the government needs to develop regulatory frameworks to stamp out misinformation and ensure balanced reporting. But to do that, it simultaneously needs to build trust in its public institutions. A staggering 48% of Australians say they do not trust their government to do the right thing —a substantial hurdle for the development of any trustworthy regulatory framework.

Social media expansion and upheaval 

Social media wasn’t immune to industry changes and witnessed its fair share of controversies in 2023. User privacy concerns and the need to strike a balance between free speech and content moderation were ongoing themes. 

While Facebook maintained its market share, TikTok solidified its challenger status with a 17% growth in its user base from 2022. It reached 1.7 billion users in 2023, seemingly undeterred by the high-profile U.S Senate hearing addressing concerns about the Chinese-owned platform’s data privacy and content moderation. 

The Australian government’s TikTok ban on Commonwealth-issued devices proved privacy concerns –and the threat of foreign interference –outweighed the platform’s benefits: strong community reach, engagement and exposure. The ban foreshadows a potential nationwide ban on TikTok if Australia is to follow the US’s lead in considering a ban on anyone using the social media app. 

Understanding the impact of these controversies is crucial for effective policy communication and community engagement. Take Meta’s Threads, for example. Threads was launched as a way to capitalise on user discontent and negative press after Elon Musk bought Twitter and rebranded it to X. Many users flocked to the platform in its early days, but Threads soon experienced an 82% drop in daily active users within a few weeks of its launch. 

Any public communication strategy needs to be agile enough to adapt quickly to these rapid platform changes. Public sector leaders should consider establishing mechanisms for real-time social media monitoring to track conversations as they happen, anticipate changing user behaviour and respond to platform changes.

Female-led content breaks records

Women were a force to be reckoned with in 2023, dominating the airwaves, cinema and pages of our magazines. Across film, sports, and music, women asserted themselves —commanding audiences and driving serious revenue.

The breakout success of the Matilda’s FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign suggests a strong public desire for government initiatives to promote female-led sports programs. The Matilda’s semi-final match against England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 captivated the nation, with over 43% of the Australian population tuning in. Policymakers can continue this momentum by doubling down on gender equity initiatives in sports and funding female-first initiatives. 

The success of female-centric content across disciplines shows an Australian public hungry for diverse narratives and equal gender representation. Now is a perfect time for public sector institutions to launch and support initiatives that contribute to diversity and fair representation in the media.

If you’re a policymaker, encourage media initiatives that promote cultural diversity and empower underrepresented voices. It’s also a great time to invest in women-led initiatives to amplify their position in the media landscape.

A brave new world of AI 

AI rose as a force to be reckoned with in 2023, both celebrated and feared in equal measure. Publishers and policymakers were quick to introduce guidelines and guardrails for the use of AI, prompted by ethical concerns and the spread of misinformation.

ChatGPT brought AI into the mainstream with an AI-powered chatbot so simple anyone could use it. While the accuracy of AI programs is questionable, the promise of automation, efficiency and time-saving means over 180 million users interact with ChatGPT today. 

Widespread adoption means public sector leaders need to engage in public discourse around AI —there was a 206% increase in conversations about AI in 2023, according to Streem media data. Understanding this emerging technology and commissioning research into the impact of AI in Australian media is the basis for evidence-based policymaking. 

The highly public rise of AI has also led to widespread concern. According to Streem’s report, 20% of Australians believe AI could pose a risk of human extinction within the next two decades, while 57% believe AI creates more problems than it solves. These public concerns indicate a need for policy frameworks that balance the benefits of AI with the public interest. Future education programs could provide guardrails for the use of AI while also addressing ethical concerns with its usage. 

Streem’s State of Australian Media report shows an industry faced with challenge and change but with a surprisingly hopeful future. Beyond the numbers, this report provides a compass for public sector professionals navigating an industry in flux —and signposts the way for a new era of Australian media. To read the full report, head here

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