News & Tech contacted key media executives and industry players for their 2019 predictions. Here are prognostications from Brian Steffens, director of communications at the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, in Columbia, Missouri.

Brian Steffens update

N&T: What tech trend are you watching for 2019?

Steffens: I’m watching, hopefully, for sensible adoption of AI … to simplify and accelerate workflow processes, but more interested if/when media companies can replace frustrating phone trees with AI for customer service. Also watching for AR to grow, more monetization opportunities than VR.

N&T: What's your biggest business prediction for 2019?

Steffens: Media companies will learn that “free” works in limited circumstances (but works there) and that for mass media as we’ve known it, as a marketplace of ideas that serves the entire community, paid is perhaps the only way forward. Given the latter, news media have to spend more on marketing and customer service. Less selling and more persuasion … messaging with meaning, not “BOGO” short term strategies.

N&T: What regulatory or government moves interest you?

Steffens: I wish there was a way our financial system allowed for rewarding citizens, local and national, not just shareholders, investors and funds. If all decisions are aimed to coddle out of town/state/country shareholders, then growth and profit are the only motives. Service to the community suffers and we’ve seen that since the 70s.

N&T: How do you see media's evolution with social media in the near future?

Steffens: I don’t yet have a good answer for this. I think the Trusting News efforts are a good step forward, but there’s a long way to go. The idea of an open market of ideas offers opportunities for social media, but the manipulation of those platforms subverts that. I hate the idea of government regulation for speech, but I fear the platforms, their owners and employees don’t fully understand the responsibility of free speech nor the technology they may need to develop a “clean” platform. 

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