The Week Kickoff: From Dead Sea Scrolls to traffic goals

A strong week for legacy media last week, as Biblical scroll discoveries returned to the headlines for the first time in 60 years and the Beano celebrated its 70th birthday. We also take a look at the recently released 14th annual Tech Trends Report(s) from the Future Today Institute, which contains such mind-melting predictions as “Some governments will consider granting the legal status of ‘electronic persons’ to sophisticated robots” this year. It’s all here, and it’s in tiiiny little chunks, so join us as we kick off the week…

Dead Sea Scrolls

It was a Biblical week for media last week, as two dozen fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed in a cave in the Judean Desert. The literature is believed to be around 2,000yrs old, and it’s the first discovery of its kind for almost 60 years. To put that into perspective, the texts predate the printed page by around a millennium and a half, when in 1440 early incarnations of the Gutenberg printing press began to be put into action. However, in the great scheme of things the age of the scrolls pales in comparison to some of the earliest known tablet documents on record, which are believed to be more like 5,000 years old. Nonetheless, a strong legacy media title!  

Traffic goals

Another practice many believed had largely been confined to the media history books until recently is traffic quotas. This is the practice whereby news organisations use quantitative metrics to hold their journalists to account, be this in the form of article traffic, byline counts, engagement, or whatever else may be the fashion in the boardroom from week to week. The issue came back into the industry spotlight last week, when Business Insider reported that almost all members of Fortune’s editorial union were staging a day-long work stoppage in protest of the practice.

Lucia Moses, Deputy Editor for Media & Advertising wrote: “Like many publishers, Fortune’s lucrative live events business has come to a halt. Fortune launched a paywall in early 2020 shortly before the pandemic took hold, but staffers said it has more recently focused on chasing web traffic. With that strategy came byline counts and traffic goals beginning last year that have faced internal resistance.”

The incident provides another interesting anomaly in the more widespread industry march towards subscription revenues and gated communities. It’s also a timely reminder that chasing eyeballs and the digital advertising revenues that they can bring is not getting any easier, particularly when it comes to ensuring quality content.

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The Beano at 70

Biblical text’s return after a 60 year hiatus was almost upstaged by the Beano’s birthday. Dennis the Menace turned 70 last week and is marking the occasion with a special birthday edition, guest edited by super-fan Joe Sugg. Beano Studios was launched in 2016, with the task of bringing Beano characters to life globally across all media platforms.

Central to this mission is Beano Brain, which collects data from quizzes, polls and behavioural trends on as well as analysing kids’ digital behaviour and user journeys from ongoing usability testing. The studio also conducts face-to-face insight testing with kids every six weeks, regularly visits schools and has a panel of 31 kids from a diverse ethnographic background called ‘Beano Trendspotters’ interviewed on a weekly basis. It seems that in 2021, Dennis is still going strong as a media analyst.

Screenshot: The Guardian

Future Today Institute launches 14th annual Tech Trends Report

The Future Today Institute (FTI) has launched its 14th annual Tech Trends Report, which this year comes in twelve separate volumes that between them analyse nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. You can take a look at FIPP’s preliminary analysis of the reports here, including a deep dive into the media sector as well as some key takeaways for planet earth on a wider level, including:

  • Covid-19 accelerated the use of AI in drug discovery last year. The first trial of an AI-discovered drug is underway in Japan.
  • E-doping is already an issue in professional eSports leagues, where Adderall and Ritalin are banned substances and using a cheat-code can get you banned for life.
  • Homes are becoming sentient: Automated systems sense and adjust temperature, sound, light, and other functions in real time to support families.
  • The attack on the US Capitol led to an unprecedented amount of cybersleuthing—everyday people finding and posting the identities of insurgents online.
  • Some governments will consider granting the legal status of ‘electronic persons’ to sophisticated robots.

Digital Subscription Snapshot

One important component of the media sector that the Future Today Institute hones-in on is subscriptions, and FIPP last week launched its latest Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot in partnership with CeleraOne. Across the board, we see outstanding growth rates and new entries to the report, as the New York Times (NYT) continues to dominate the publisher space:

“It’ll be interesting to see the extent to which NYT see other content types playing a role in fuelling that growth,” says James Hewes, FIPP CEO. “Pretty much all of it so far comes from traditional words and pictures but will they require greater investment in video and audio to attract – and retain – subscribers as they get beyond their new target?”

Also from FIPP…

This year’s digital DIS seminar series continues this week, with Amy Briggs, Executive Editor of the National Geographic and Host of the company’s Overheard Podcast. The virtual events series if free to FIPP members and just €99 for non-members. We’re also launching a new training session centred around Events Planning & Marketing, which you can find out more about here.


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