News Media Today

Predicting the 2024 future for news media


When I was asked to write some predictions for the upcoming year in journalism, the name Clifford Stoll immediately began ping-ponging around my brain.

The name doesn't ring a bell?

Stoll, an astronomer, systems manager and professor, wrote an infamous column in Newsweek in 1995 (way back when it was still a magazine) where he predicted the internet would have no impact on newspapers and called the then-emerging worldwide web a “trendy and oversold community.”

“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher, and no computer network will change the way government works,” Stoll wrote.

Obviously, Stoll missed the mark with his premature dismissal of what has become the most impactful technological achievement in the past 50 years — for good and bad. We all work online, learn online, pester our elected representatives online, and even find love online.

Stoll did nail one negative aspect of online life we all grapple with today, especially those of us working in remote newsrooms often separated from our colleagues: the lack of “human contact.”

“Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee,” Stoll wrote. “While the internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth.”

Like Stoll, my goal is to get at least something right by looking ahead to 2024 and making some predictions about what will come to pass in the world of journalism. My only hope is to avoid making a "worst predictions of the past 25 years" piece published in the near future on some AI-powered platform whose name is a sandwich of random letters in-between two zs.

The return of the homepage

Over the past decade, the homepage of news publishers (and just about every website) has become devalued as more of us turned to social media platforms and search engines as the primary way we find content.

That will still be the case in 2024, but two factors — AI-powered tools flooding the internet with garbage and annoying social media algorithms — will cause people to seek out the content they like more directly. That means your homepage will once again become an important tool to grow and engage with your audience.

Think of the homepage of your website in two distinct ways. First, it’s a traffic-driver, so ensuring that your most important and engaging stories are easy to find is paramount to a successful homepage experience. That’s tough when large chains like Gannett have rolled out a single design to nearly all their newspapers, making it challenging to stand out as a destination for your readers.

Second, your homepage is a billboard for your brand. Even if a reader doesn’t click on a single story during their visit, it’s important to curate your homepage to emphasize who you are and why you’re important to your audience. Gone are the days when newspapers had a local monopoly — now it’s essential to tell the audience what you cover, why you’re different and how you can impact their lives, especially if your content is behind a paywall.

If you’re a local news organization, readers in your community are also more likely to visit your homepage than the read-one-story-and-bail social and search crowd. So double-down on your homepage design, make it a welcoming place for all those news readers who will be bailing their chaotic social media platforms, and thank me next year. 

RIP Twitter

2024 will finally be the year journalists abandon the embattled social media platform now called X. Since Elon Musk purchased the platform in 2022, X has become a cesspool of hate-filled speech and bad actors flooding the zone with desperate attempts at engagement. He’s often at the center of the controversy, peddling conspiracy theories and attacking the media as major advertisers flee.

Musk has also made the platform increasingly useless for journalists with his changes, from making Tweetdeck worse and placing it behind a paywall to replacing verified users with a subscription service that makes it impossible to sort fact from fiction.

All that’s on top of the fact Twitter never really drove much traffic back to websites, and X is even worse. Months after abandoning Twitter for labeling it a propaganda network, NPR said the platform accounted for just 1% of web traffic, according to a memo circulated to NPR staff and obtained by Neiman fellow Gabe Bullard.

So, an end to our addiction to a social media platform that's doing way more harm than good was long overdue. But it also might not be journalists choosing to sever their connection.

Musk was pretty clear in his interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit last month that X won't last long if advertisers don't pony up their support. The company reportedly has a $1.5 billion interest payment coming up, and with advertisers fleeing the platform, we could be looking at the first stages of a potential bankruptcy.

It’s unclear which alternative to X will emerge, though my money is on Threads, the Instagram add-on run by Mark Zuckerberg and the folks at Meta. There’s also Mastodon, Bluesky (created by former Twitter founder Jack Dorsey) and Post. We just need to settle on one and pack our bags already.

There will be a 2024 mirage

When venerable institutions like the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post face the specter of layoffs, you know 2023 was a bad year for news outlets. But here comes the 2024 election, which will band-aid over a lot of issues newsrooms are currently facing. Advertising revenue will rise as consultants convince politicians to spread their message (and money) across media outlets. Readership will swell, and web traffic will grow as the boring Biden years face the potential of a second Trump term. 

Don’t fall for it. The changing tides will simply be a mirage and mask the long-term issues newsrooms will continue to face in 2025 and beyond.

After a bump during the chaotic Trump years and the pandemic, traffic to news websites has dropped nearly across the board over the past few years. Social media platforms have largely abandoned partnering with news organizations, and Google is finding more and more ways to keep users on their platform rather than sending them to your website.

It gets worse. News avoidance is real, and many readers will likely disappear after the dust settles on the election. According to a 2019 study by the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, readers don't think we're doing a particularly great job of helping them understand the world around them. And an increasing amount of young people get their news from personalities on TikTok.

Journalism needs structural change to remain relevant in people’s lives. It will seem like we turn a corner next year, but we're still in the same circle, trying desperately to get back on the main road.

We'll continue to fail to cover the election

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has been beating a dead horse on how we should be covering politics. Instead of centering our coverage around the horse race of insider strategy and endless polling, journalists should focus more on how a candidate’s policies will impact voters’ lives.

As Rosen puts it, “Not who has what chances of winning, but the consequences for our democracy. Not the odds, but the stakes.”

Unfortunately, the horse race remains too tempting for journalists to ignore. Once again, reporters will obsessively cover every poll, report endlessly on the amount of money candidates raise, and rush to share mini-scoops of little consequence heralded by campaign insiders looking to score political points. In their rush, they'll give legitimacy to candidates who threaten the very democracy that we all joined this business to uphold.

Palace intrigue stories and an occasional look at who’s up and who’s down should be secondary components to a larger commitment to organize political coverage around how a candidate’s policies or beliefs would impact people’s lives. Choose major issues to frame your political coverage around, and don’t let the candidates and their campaign advisers become your assignment editors.

I’ve seen a lot of real movement toward covering the stakes in recent years, and I’m hopeful it will continue through the 2024 election. I’m just not ready to predict it.

Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and columnist for Editor and Publisher, where he writes about trends in digital media. He is also a digital editor and writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reach him at


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