The Future of Media: Concepts and Trends for Communication Professionals

Communication is more diverse than ever, whether it’s personal discussion with friends, family and colleagues or a large brand’s messages to a consumer base. The mainstream introduction of the internet in the early 1990s brought new and exciting communication methods, including digital media channels that allow users to share messages more quickly and across greater distances.

These advances in technology paved the way for digital media to have a major influence on how businesses and brands create relationships with their customers. They have also impacted traditional communication professions. The result is new job titles and a new landscape for what communication looks like.

The future of media is continuing to turn to digital advances for entertainment, news, and business, which translates to major opportunities for businesses. According to the Pew Research Center, the digital media industry continues to grow, with about 86% of American adults consuming some of their news online. As the audience for online media grows, so do the number of platforms. For businesses, maintaining an online presence that allows them to effectively communicate with their audience is critical.

Communication Conceptual on Visual Screen

As specialists who have earned a communication degree look to the future, there are key areas of growth that are likely to shape the communication careers of the future. Social media managers, digital media managers, content strategists, and communication specialists often focus on executing communication strategies through digital means including social media messages, blog posts, landing pages, video, and more.

Future Media Concepts Driving the Job Market

Digital media dominates how Americans receive and share information. As such, key influences are taking shape that are likely to impact the future of the field. Innovation is the new norm when it comes to media, and that trend isn’t likely to change as we look to future media concepts. Social media, digital advertising, and increased access to the internet through various devices have all shaped trends in media.

The future of digital media will evolve as new tools emerge, consumers make new demands, and the quality and accessibility of the technologies improve. The rise of mobile video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and the more refined use of data analytics will all influence the future of digital media.

Mobile Video Marketing

The future of media is continuously evolving, and the methodologies that advertisers use to reach consumers need to change alongside it. According to a survey by The Trade Desk, 74% of U.S. households in the 18-34 age group have cut the cable TV cord, are planning to, or have never subscribed. With adults in this age group shifting to streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Sling, advertisers must develop new strategies to reach them. Each year, more consumers are choosing online video platforms over traditional television, and many are using their mobile devices to do so. This indicates that the future of media, particularly video, requires a mobile-first strategy. This goes beyond advertising on popular streaming channels and requires businesses to evaluate how they appear in the marketplace. With videos now accessed across platforms, having mobile-friendly, accessible video content is key.

Data Analytics and Public Relations

Public relations has embraced the big data realm and incorporated insights gleaned from such data to improve PR tactics. Analytics from online advertising measure more than the success of a specific advertising campaign. They can also detect shifts in the campaign. Data collected can help marketers refine the ad’s message, determine which channels to use, and gain insight into who exactly is listening.

Through data analysis, professionals in PR are creating more effective outreach campaigns. The large amounts of data available today enable communication experts to predict news cycles and interest; discover which outlets cover their industry most; and uncover potential relationships with media channels, other organizations, and influencers. While some of the metrics associated with public relations may seem intangible, data is giving shape to the future of media concepts in PR through its ability to make sense of all the (intangible) noise.

Continued Investment in VR and AR

Through specific software and hardware, VR recreates environments, while AR enhances physical images. These two industries, which have grown up side-by-side, have gained new emphasis in recent years, and each is growing quickly.

According to market research provider Research and Markets, the global VR and AR market is projected to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2030 (from $37 billion in 2019).  Many experts envision these technologies will allow customers to have immersive experiences with products before they buy them, helping convert ad dollars to actual customer purchases. These technologies can also help print media integrate with digital, and use real-time data to deliver powerful, personalized experiences to customers.

The use of digital media in personal and professional communication has been accelerating at breakneck speed in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has kept that momentum going. Lockdowns, concerns of infection, and restrictions on in-person commerce have all pushed people to more online use. For example, data from market research firm GlobalWebIndex (GWI) found that 43% of consumers in August 2020 were using social media for longer periods because of the pandemic. Additionally, a RAND American Life Panel Survey reported that about 25% of respondents said they’ve been shopping online more since the start of the pandemic.

With the pandemic as the foundation, a host of digital media trends is likely permanently altering the digital landscape in ways communication professionals need to understand. Some of those future of digital media trends include the following.

The Rise of Social Movements

Social media is increasingly among the most important tools for social activists and everyday citizens to spread the word about important issues and persuade others to join their cause. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, dominated social media for much of the summer of 2020. These activists and consumers, particularly younger ones, often expect the businesses they patronize to be part of the conversation. Organizations that decide to speak out on important topics must understand how to communicate in ways that burnish rather than tarnish their brands and reputations.

Social Media Scrutiny

Momentum has been building for holding Facebook, Twitter, and other social media organizations accountable for some of the content that is disseminated through their platforms. In 2020, that momentum reached critical mass. The boiling point involved misinformation and extreme rhetoric around the coronavirus and presidential election.

Political leaders have put a spotlight on social media companies through congressional hearings and proposed legislation. In addition, some consumers and even employees have expressed their dissatisfaction with how these social media giants have responded so far. Going forward, these companies will likely need to implement stricter internal regulations on content or deal with government regulations.

The Power of Influencers

Social media influencers often have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of followers. Perhaps not surprisingly, a recent study by marketing agency Amra & Elma found that pandemic-related spikes in social media usage led to an increase in influencer engagement. According to its findings, at the start of the pandemic, influencers experienced a 67% jump in likes and a 51% jump in comments.

What’s also notable is that despite the upticks in their engagement rates, influencers’ pricing for their posts increased by just 3.1%. “A slight increase in pricing means that brands are now likely to receive significantly more reach for the same budget as they would have pre-pandemic,” the survey reports. The report also revealed that engagement surges, coupled with modest upticks in the cost for influencer-sponsored posts, means that brands can take advantage of a lower cost per impression.

Preparing for the Future of Digital Media

As students and current industry professionals consider the future of media, it’s clear that new technology innovations will provide new business and career opportunities.

Mobile video marketing can provide big rewards for businesses. The study of data will provide key insights and make business more competitive. The continued exploration of emerging technologies such as VR and AR will change how we as humans interact with the digital landscape.

As you consider your own future in media, discover how an online communication degree can prepare you for the exciting innovations to come in the field. Such a degree typically provides an understanding of emerging and social media platforms, data analytics, visual communication, content creation, and beyond.

The trends discussed here, along with others, mark a shift in how we consume media and how companies interact with consumers. If you’re excited by the prospect of leveraging new, cutting-edge technology to reach a young, tech-savvy audience, consider an online degree in communication, such as a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Maryville University. You’ll emerge prepared for the modern world of marketing and ready to make an impact. Apply today and begin your digital media journey.

Recommended Reading

How Technology Has Changed Communication

What Is Copywriting in Marketing?

Digital Communication Essentials for Boosting Organizational and Personal Brands


American Psychological Association, “Controlling the Spread of Misinformation”

Amra & Elma, “Effect of the Pandemic on Influencer Marketing Study”

The CMO Survey, 26th Edition: February 2021

CNN, “Facebook, Twitter and Google CEOs Grilled by Congress on Misinformation”

Entrepreneur, “Five Video Marketing Trends You Should Follow in 2019”

Forbes, “How Technology is Changing Communication in the Workplace”

GlobalWebIndex, “How the Outbreak Has Changed the Way We Use Social Media”

Pew Research Center, Digital News Fact Sheet

Pew Research Center, “More Than Eight-in-Ten Americans Get News From Digital Devices”

Power Digital Marketing, “What is Data-Driven PR and Why Should You Be Using It?”

RAND Corporation, “How is Covid-19 Changing Americans’ Online Shopping Habits?”

Research and Markets, AR and VR Market Research Report

The Trade Desk, “New Survey Suggests 64% of US Households May Lack Long-Term Interest in Cable TV Subscriptions”

Wired, “Facebook Employees Take the Rare Step to Call Out Mark Zuckerberg”

ZDNet, “2021 Predictions: The Future Digital Media Technology Amidst the Pandemic”

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