A new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, published this week and titled Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2024, outlines the extensive challenges faced by journalists during the past year, compounded by the mainstream release of generative AI.

“The disruptive power of artificial intelligence (AI) will sweep through the information space this year at a time of intense political and economic volatility around the world,” reads Nic Newman’s executive summary.  

“Journalists and news organisations will need to rethink their role and purpose with some urgency.” 

On the bright side: “But with change comes opportunity and this report is full of inspiring ways in which news organisations around the world are adapting to this new world. Embracing the best of AI while managing its risks will be the underlying narrative of the year ahead,” Newman adds.

Markus Knall, Chief Editor and Director Content at Ippen Digital, is a strategy-oriented journalism change manager, credited with establishing one of the largest digital editorial networks in Germany. An early AI adopter, he’s also a strong advocate for embracing this disruptive new tech, and shared key learnings from proven practice at WAN-IFRA’s recent Newsroom Summit.

Just start: Turn on tradition by reversing the strategy

“It’s completely okay to use reverse strategies in fields that are new or rapidly advancing, and when you do not have enough knowledge. The first step is to start; start with just starting,” says Knall.

Experiment with a few test projects, learn what you can – and then form a strategy, he advises.

See also: ‘Exploration and experimentation are key to media’s survival’ – what AI can do for your newsroom – and audience

Creating and expanding knowledge, and leveraging talent is key, adds Knall. “Research shows that lack of understanding in top level management is the biggest challenge in leveraging the benefits of AI – so the first goal is just to create knowledge. It doesn’t have to be successful. The first project just has to create knowledge about what we need to know. Then you create strategies – and then you come to the user strategy process of why we need AI; what to do; how to do it.”

A strategic approach for a unique model

Ippen Digital is one of Germany’s leading digital publishers, with more than 50 news websites in Germany – from tz, Münchner Merkur, HNA and Frankfurter Rundschau, to verticals such as BuzzFeed.de, Einfach Tasty, Serienjunkies and ingame.de

The editorial network, under the brand IPPEN.MEDIA, is also one of the largest regional publisher networks in Europe with 80 portals throughout Germany, as well as locations and content partners in 31 cities. The network generates an audience of over 300 million visits per month. 

Print and digital are two separate concerns, with digital forming a network that houses all brands within a single newsroom across Germany and Austria, with some 250 staff.

 “If you work in an environment which is highly disruptive, and fast growing, you have to move very fast; so instead of separated brands, we have one huge network, which is our marketplace strategy,” explains Knall. 

As one of Germany’s largest news platforms, Ippen Digital has been experimenting with AI for years, and working with it editorially for the past two.

Key learnings

New management skills are needed for complex situations, platform-economy and fundamental changes in journalism. Change management, leadership and staff development are key, notes Knall.

Digital journalism is tech-driven: leaders and employees need more tech knowledge, from the bottom up and top down 

AI is not an end in itself. We need business models over pure efficiency

Communication is key to countering ethical issues, and this requires transparency, too; share guidelines, trainings and tutorials; set up workshops with newsroom teams, create an AI corner and share information across teams and divisions. 


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