30 . 01 . 24

AI in media industry represents challenges and opportunities

Words by: Print Power
The publishing industry is going through major changes. New digital platforms are used by existing publishers and also generate new publishing brands. We talk with Philipp Schmidt from the leading French publishing house Prisma Media (part of the Vivendi Group) about the changes and opportunities.

Ulbe Jelluma: We live in uncertain times with political, economic, technological and climate changes. What will be the challenges and opportunities in your industry?

Philipp Schmidt: Since change is getting more and more disruptive, I see challenges and opportunities converging in our media industry, like two sides of the same coin. Paradigm shifts triggered through game changers like third-party-cookie-ban, CSR urgency, privacy legislation or the AI revolution are eventually representing both challenges AND opportunities...

Everything depends on your agility, adaptability and also the courage to find the right balance between taking risks and avoiding them.

At Prisma Media, we decided for instance to support some of our top tech talent to create their own company that helps publishers to create their cross-domain ID solution. We helped them beta-test our inventory, supported their investment and helped to scale their solution called First-ID with other publishers. In the end, this could be one of the answers to the third-party-cookie-ban.

Every disruption can be an opportunity.

UJ: The most important themes are without a doubt AI and sustainability. How does that impact your industry and what kind of opportunities does that offer?

PS: AI is scary and fascinating at the same time but in our view represents a tremendous opportunity to enter the era of "augmented journalism" where editors can multiply their efficiency of data crunching and visualisation, researching or cross-referencing in a fraction of time. The same team of editors can create so much more and better content than ever before. But that requires a perfect mastery of the existing new tools.

Or let's put it this way: Since we can't stop it, it's urgent to learn how to benefit from those new technologies and make it a first mover advantage. At the same time, it's also important to fight for better IP protection and value sharing with the AI companies that are creating value through pillaging content and knowledge from publishers. One could call it "doing the one, without missing out on the other".

At Prisma Media, we started very early to experiment with GenAI tools and understand how it could change our work on the editorial side. Therefore we could better understand how to improve AI-optimized title-writing for online posts, organize cooking recipes or even build presentations for pitches in record time. We also identified more easily risks and flaws. Early adoption helps to generate a first-mover advantage.

For sustainability, it's the same. There is no other way than to go green fast! So better be amongst the first movers and learn how to change as than waiting too long in fear and being forced to change later.

UJ: Sustainability is increasingly becoming an important factor in the choice of printed material. Will this affect publishers more in 2024?

PS: Paper prices are reflecting the growing pressure on paper resources namely through the industry shift towards packaging for ecommerce. The amounts of paper used for print media are incomparable smaller than those needed for the growing global market of packaging. Not to forget that printed words and images do have a strong memorial impact on readers.

Nevertheless, publishers are obliged to optimize print runs through AI-driven distribution optimisation ("ideal number of copies") according to data analysis (weather, location, prior trends, etc.). It's also key to prioritize more sustainable papers provided by more responsible manufacturing partners using greener energy... We all know: It's a cycle and everyone makes his choices. At Prisma Media, we decided to print all our magazines in France to reduce our carbon footprint and support national businesses.


Philipp Schmidt, Managing Director Prisma Media in charge of revenues, transformation and luxury

UJ: Publishers have various options to publish their content. Are you considering a new channels in 2024?

PS: Completely new channels, no. But reinforcing already activated channels yes. We do publish already on all existing channels like print, via websites, most social media platforms, video, podcasts and more IRL events. In 2023 we even launched our own digital newsstand and press reader "passpresse" in France which also offers about 200 third-party publishers the opportunity to reach their digital readers. Being a market leader obliges us to take risks.

UJ: Technological change is going much faster than consumer acceptance and usage. In France for example, almost a third of the population (16 m people), including the group of 18-24 years, express their lack of sufficiently mastering online skills. Do you expect such a proportion of the population to stick to printed communication such as books and newspapers/magazines?

PS: Yes, user behaviour is changing but not as fast as marketers and digital evangelists are telling us. Don't get me wrong: the younger the target group, the more they tend to access content via social or streaming, but there is still a market for many years to come for printed media.

Take the book industry for example! Everyone thought ebooks and audiobooks would be replacing printed books in less than a decade. What happened is that those new content experiences were added to the legacy book business.

For press publishers, it's a bit different. While demographics of people "growing older with print habits" are still helping magazine publishers to resist rather well in the circulation of print copies, one can observe that newspapers are shifting indeed towards an almost full digital solicitation. Their circulation is already 2/3 to 3/4 digital PDF and digital paywall, so paper copies will be sold less and less, in my belief, with an exception for the highly advertising-driven weekend editions.

UJ: Some voices in the industry say that the future of print media, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures and books, is in the high-quality segment featuring special papers, more enrichment techniques and quality content. Do you expect publishers to follow this trend in 2024?

PS: Yes, I do think the future of print is more glorious in the upmarket where products are also always "beautiful objects" that appeal to literally all senses (how good does a freshly bought magazine or table book smell, no?).

Mass market, high circulation print media will be more challenged in the future through increasing manufacturing costs and also unavoidable structural decline. Print is hence more than ever a "device of value".

UJ: What role do you see for print media in the next 5 years?

PS: Print means curation, limited space and resources, choice, selection and hence commitment. Its value lies within these aspects which favor quality over quantity.

Digital media is rather "flow-driven" with its endless scrolling or binge-watching. We do see a complementary role of both in a world where strong brands will need manifestation in both the online and offline world.