Nieman Foundation at Harvard
The future of local news is “civic information,” not “declining legacy systems,” says new report
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Nov. 21, 2017, 12:07 p.m.
Reporting & Production

‘Tis the season for trend reports.

The Scandinavian media giant Schibsted’s annual trends report — part predictions, part survey research, part self-promotion — is out today, free for anyone interested. The report features essays on everything from the promise and pitfalls of artificial intelligence to sustainability to the future of bicycles as a consistent mode of transportation, as well as a survey of millennials in France, Spain, and Sweden on their concerns about their digital footprint. (It’s also a useful document to browse in case you’re wondering what a 7,000-employee media company considers the most important new focus areas for its business in the coming years.)

Here are a few interesting points from the report to note.

Svenska Dagbladet, Schibsted’s Stockholm-based daily newspaper, is designing a ratings system for the relative newsworthiness of each piece of news it publishes. An algorithm, trained on that data, is helping put together its homepage:

“What is a particular piece of news worth on a scale from 1–5?” … We tested different news scenarios. Stock market down 4 percent (news value 3.5), the Prime Minister proposes more CCTV cameras in central Stockholm (news value 4.0). A Strindberg play opens at the Royal Theatre (2.5).

These news ratings, combined with a time marker, how long we think the piece will draw interest and be relevant to the readers, are the very basic data in the algorithm that from now is going to steer our new front page. It was self-evident that it is journalism and the editors that, also in the future, are going to influence how news are evaluated on our front page.

— The context in which a digital ad appears is definitely important.

A study conducted jointly by Schibsted Sales and Inventory and the Stockholm School of Economics studied the impact of ads from 16 Swedish advertisers, including the buying intentions of people who saw the ads: “On average the effect doubles with the right audience and triples with the right context and the right target group. Therefore, even when there is a lot of data about who is being reached, the context almost always trumps data, especially when it comes to getting customers to act and, not least, with lesser-known brands.”

— Millennials in France, Spain, and Sweden might love to post about their lives on social media, but they’re also wary of how the information they leave online can be used for more targeted and sometimes more nefarious purposes. This is according to a study Schibsted commissioned, looking at 1,200 people born in those three countries between 1983 and 2001.

— Sixty-seven percent of Spanish and French millennials surveyed reported worrying that “the information they provide on social media can be used to influence political views.” Fifty-five percent of Swedish millennials felt the same.

— Sixty-one percent of Spanish millennials reported being willing to give up additional personal information online in order to receive better tailored products and services. That’s true for 51 percent for French millennials and 39 percent of Swedish millennials.

— Fifty-four percent of Swedish millennials have in the past year changed their phone settings to improve their digital privacy (49 percent for Spanish millennials; 37 percent for French millennials).

There’s more in the report to read here.

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