Hello there,

At this point, in the twilight zone before the new year, you’re probably ready to move on from the various “2023 in review” pieces about the world of news media which have been doing the rounds.

But as you’re also likely looking to start 2024 with a spring in your step, we've compiled a list of action points for the new year, along with a few references to blogs or webinars that will help you ace your professional development goals.

1. Implement 'custom instructions' in ChatGPT

Let’s start with a small practical tip. It's been possible since the summer, and prompt engineers often point it out, yet many users fail to add this handy feature to the mother of all AI-driven chatbots. When you’re using ChatGPT, make sure you inform it about who you are and how you want the responses to look. Click on your profile and find ‘custom instructions’ right above ‘settings’. Here's a piece with a whole bunch of great tips about how to get the best out of it.

2. Develop strong ethical guidelines for artificial intelligence

For starters inquire about them at your company or organisation. How are you transparent about the use of large language models? How do you prevent infringement on the privacy of sources? Niemanlab has created a list with useful categories and inspiration. All the developments in 2023 have proven that you need to make this a serious priority quickly.

3. Get started with solutions journalism 

Whether that's constructive journalism, around which the Bonn Institute built a fantastic event this year, or service journalism, the movement aimed at helping visitors in their daily lives. Our data tells us you can benefit a lot. There is a reason why the Solutions Journalism Network is such an active and present organisation. 

You need to get going with this approach. You can start by considering how to motivate your readers to take action in your next article, but devising a strategy to give this daily attention isn’t a luxury - it’s an essential task that’ll help you rise above the competition.

4. Fine-tune your user needs approach

"Forget AI or even the internet… the biggest change in journalism in the last 30 years is that we now know what the audience does and wants." It's clear why we at smartocto, an editorial data company that provides insights into visitor behaviour, wholeheartedly agree with this recent quote from Charlie Beckett, director of The Journalism AI Project.

With all the developments in digital transformation and artificial intelligence, it's essential to have the basics in order. You need to understand what your audience values, what they're looking for, and where the opportunities lie to engage them over the long term.

Smartocto is fully committed to combining knowledge about user needs with smart content analysis thanks to artificial intelligence. We advise you to do the same. Map out reader needs with a data tool and look for a way to let artificial intelligence guide and assist your editorial team in achieving your goals.

Need help? Look at userneedsfornews.com.

5. Consider what your most important success metric will be

This is important for all roles within a media organisation - and it’s slightly different than a target. The targets are undoubtedly already there. 

A good example of focussing on a success metric came this year from a smartocto client serving a niche audience, as it's often the niche brands that are progressive in their digital development (simply because they can't survive without focus). Daily Coin turned the metric 'read depth' into a challenge among editors. Let it be a source of inspiration to make data-driven work fun and valuable for both the editorial team and the audience.


For the above recommendations, we also looked at the renowned predictions that Niemanlab offers annually. A few of these certainly still belong in this week's reading tips:

  • As social media’s risks and challenges intensify (the abuse, harassment, trolling, and bad faith attacks). At the same time, the benefits diminish (X doesn’t send big audiences to news and TikTok is a 'news wasteland'), journalists as well as news platforms will stop begrudgingly depending on these platforms and start trying to circumvent them, thinks Jacob L. Nelson.
  • 2024 will be a big election year, in the United States and Europe. Many news publishers will see an uptick in audience attention. But this is no blessing, warns Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, as long-term engagement is not aligned with how publishers are dealing with this election fever.
  • This applies, according to Kendall Trammell, to other topics as well. It's no coincidence that many people are turning away from the news. "People need a break. Influencers have stepped up to help fill the void and offer up content that meets the needs of their communities. There’s an opportunity for news media to be this essential, too."

Not had enough of all the predictions? Then we can recommend this piece on Journalism.co.uk, in which, among others, Dmitry Shishkin contributes about user needs and artificial intelligence.

Also, media professionals need to know that the battle against Large Language Models is intensifying. News publishers see the AI tool from Google as a traffic-destroying nightmare

Finally, we’d like to point out that we think about the money as well… According to INMA media ad sales team should focus on these 8 strategies of revenue growth.


With this, we hope we've provided enough food for thought for the first few days of the new year. Take a moment now for contemplation, think about all the important things that make your personal life enjoyable, and then, of course, we will be right there with you in the new year to guide you through the world of digital transformation.

Happy New Year's Eve, and all the best for 2024!

The smartocto team