AI, social networks… the 5 disruptions that are forcing the media to reinvent itself again – Les Échos

Published November 22, 2023 at 7:00 am.

Within a year, ChatGPT penetrated newsrooms and changed usage and economic models; Streaming giants like Netflix and Disney had to fundamentally adapt their models, especially by entering the free TV sector; With Elon Musk’s control of X (formerly Twitter) and the rise of TikTok, social networks have changed their face; Taking climate change into account has become essential.

On the occasion of the “Médias en Seine” festival organized by “Les Echos” and Franceinfo, a look back at major upheavals for the industry.

1. Content: the ChatGPT revolution

OpenAI’s conversational robot came onto the market a year ago. And nothing seems to be the same for creative industries as they face potential mega-automation of their production. Certainly many newspapers are already using “robots” to automate certain articles such as sports scores. But generative artificial intelligence (AI) is designed to make us change dimensions.

When it comes to information, according to the latest report from JounalismAI (London School of Economics and Political Science, Google News Initiative), 85% of the hundred media companies surveyed use these technologies.

It should be noted that this occurs to very different extents and often in the form of experiments. In television, for example, Canal+ uses AI in particular to create program summaries, Radio France is working on the automatic transcription of its radio programs or the detection of errors in public statements by personalities…

Newen, TF1’s production company, uses AI to create pitch summaries with images and trailers. Likewise, in the press, “Le Monde”, for example, uses DeepL alongside a team to translate the daily newspaper into English. Ebra (which holds several titles in eastern France) announced that, despite concerns from unions, it would conduct an experiment in re-reading certain articles for L’Est Républicain starting this week.

Experiments will multiply. And the head of Axel Springer (“Bild”…) had already caused great concern when he suggested that journalists could be replaced by AI. Especially since things are getting better every day: Google presented new tools for editorial teams to several American newspapers in the summer, which is considered a “bluff”.

In general, AI has largely penetrated the world of music, cinema, etc. The short film “The Frost” by Dall-E 2 was created to illustrate this.

The media remains cautious for now and expects AI to become primarily a tool. The editorial team is also cautious and is confronted with copyright and related rights. In Hollywood, the use of AI worries both screenwriters and actors, who led a long strike this year.

2. AI is shaking up the copyright structure

In economies based on copyright, such as music, audiovisual media, publishing or cinema, the emergence of a technology capable of producing new works by drawing on previous creations without remunerating the rights holders is going badly …

The world market leader for recorded music, Universal Music Group (UMG), has been the leader since the beginning of the year. According to the Financial Times, in April UMG asked streaming platforms to prevent AI systems from using their copyrighted songs.

In Hollywood, the issue of using AI to reproduce the appearance or voice of actors was also at the heart of negotiations between the studios and the striking actors, who received guarantees about their remuneration and the need for their consent.

Representatives of rights holders are also being mobilized in France. Last week, more than 80 cultural organizations called for the transparency of AI models in a joint press release in order to be able to enforce copyright. This Monday, Scam – the civil society of multimedia authors – preemptively exercised its right to oppose the use of works from its repertoire to power AI models, as Sacem did at the beginning of October.

This decision prevents AI providers from conducting training on the works of fraudsters without authorization. Without this clarification, they could rely on an exception to copyright provided for text and data mining, which was transposed into intellectual property law in the European Directive of April 17, 2019.

Some prominent figures in AI, such as researcher Yann LeCun of Meta, are against the use of copyright law for training their AI models. According to him, “if we determine that there is a copyright infringement, […] the AI ​​industry is stalling.” The debate, fraught with economic consequences, between copyright advocates and innovation advocates that is dividing EU member states is far from over.

3. Social networks are becoming more and more powerful

“This information? I found it on TikTok. » More and more young people are using social networks to get information. According to the study published in June by the Portal Institute for the Study of Journalism, which received widespread attention in the media world, the Change is actually happening. The general public clearly uses social networks to get information online (30%), to the detriment of direct access to a media site or app (22%, compared to 32% in 2018).

And in this world of change, TikTok is still on the rise: according to the same study, 20% of young people now use the social network – and yet it is singled out by several governments who accuse it of being a tool of influence or even “influence” to be. Espionage – to obtain information. Another recent study from Pew Research shows that around a third of young Americans say they get their news from the Chinese network (compared to 9% in 2020).

In general, TikTok employs many specialists because it is often considered the king of attention and manages to gain more “available brain time” than many other applications such as Instagram or Facebook. And it even trails Netflix in terms of the amount of time its users spend on the platform. In fact, it is attracting more and more attention, to the detriment of all other media.

The rise of social networks in the information sector is forcing the media to adapt… This despite the fact that the same social networks themselves have less interest in the media.

The most glaring example is X (Twitter’s new name), as it was acquired by Elon Musk in fall 2022. A few weeks ago he changed the presentation of press articles by only inserting a photo (without A. title), which has implications for related rights. The billionaire has multiplied the provocations and short critical sentences against the traditional media, which are considered “propaganda” media. At the same time, Meta announced that it would shut down Facebook News (“News” tab) in several European countries in December.

4. Streaming platforms are adapting their model

To the general public, despite the vague perception that there are fewer new good shows despite rising subscription prices, Netflix, Disney+ and other video-on-demand services still have the upper hand in Hollywood and are still shaking up the traditional national television offering.

This remains partly true. However, this perception obscures a profound shift in the context of these American entertainment giants. “We are experiencing a historical turning point, the time of the gold rush is over,” explains Claire Enders, founder of the media-specializing research office of the same name.

Rising interest rates and the difficulty of attracting new subscribers have changed Wall Street’s focus on where major studios come for funding. The goal is no longer growth at any price, but rather the search for profitability. If only to reduce the debt burden, because it has reached alarming proportions (a total of 190 billion for the big Hollywood media empires).

Oddly enough, we face Netflix in good financial shape and the bastions of the past have become more fragile as we invest to catch up. In any case, the consequence is the end of the content creation frenzy. “The volume was too high,” explains Vincent Grimond from the consulting firm Anthéma. A new editorial policy is at work. » This context change can be good news for public and private players in traditional television. Even if streaming players invest in the advertising sector.

The surprise at the end of the exit restrictions is also that the cinema is not dead, as the varying successes of films as diverse as “Oppenheimer”, “Barbie” or “Anatomy of a Case” prove that formats that have not yet proven themselves. The prediction that the cinema would be short-circuited to strengthen SVoD offerings did not come true.

5. The challenge of providing better information about climate change

As 2023 promises to be the hottest year in history, the preservation of the planet is at the center of a “culture war” on social media as falsehoods deny the human origin of global warming. In recent months, the scientific fact has been increasingly aggressively disputed by climate-skeptical trolls. For the scientists themselves, insults and insults are piling up, especially in relation to X.

In the face of such a wave of hate, the task for traditional media is difficult. Opinion studies regularly confirm that climate skeptics are overrepresented on social networks and that in reality a large majority of French people are concerned about global warming.

However, the topic is becoming controversial. According to a Toluna poll for TF1 published last Thursday, the vast majority of French people (almost 80%) want the media to make them more aware of the environmental problem through less alarmism and more education.

The challenge for the media is to stay informed based on scientific evidence (hence the formation of expert committees) and by proposing solutions, without ignoring the public’s fears, the political disputes and the underlying risks of “greenwashing”. ecological transition.

According to the IPCC, the number of climate-related topics published in 59 countries in 2020-2021 almost doubled in five years. But the effort required to ensure the quality of the information and the search for better formats is also considerable. Several media companies such as TF1, France Télévisions, Radio France and AFP have launched extensive training programs. Ultimately, the goal is to better reflect the environmental dimension in all topics while strengthening certain specific meetings: special events, magazines, extended weather reports, etc.