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Reuters finds reader revenue critical for the future of media

January 21, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

Mobile and social media received a lot of attention this last decade. Major media trends included fragmented attention, intermediated media, and growing distrust in journalism. So, what will the next 10 years present? The Reuters Institute once again looks at our past and evaluates emerging trends to forecast what’s ahead in media in its report, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020. Overarching themes for digital media in the next decade center on internet regulation, the re-establishment of trust in journalism, and creating a closer connection with the audience.

In addition, the report includes key trends and predictions for 2020 (see full report for the entire list).

1. The media business looks good; journalism less so.

The media business has a positive outlook but not so for journalism itself. While media executives feel confident or very confident about their company’s prospects in 2020, they feel less so about journalism in general. Their confidence for the media business centers on reader revenue and paid content, stable and growing income while advertising remains unstable. Further, the media business looks strong while consolidation is expected to continue. The latest in consolidation is a focus on keeping the editorial voice of the brands acquired while integrating back-end tech and data systems.

2. Digital leaders have mixed reviews for platforms.

Those surveyed are more positive about Google and Twitter than Apple, Facebook, Snapchat, and Amazon when it comes to initiatives to support journalism. Sixty percent of respondents rated Google as average or better while the other platforms were less favorable (it’s important to note that many publishers surveyed are currently or past recipients of Google innovation funds).

The overall sentiment from publishers regarding platforms is they want a level playing field where they can compete fairly and get proper compensation for their content and its value. Publishers in the EU are trying new intervention tactics to address these companies dominance. One example is the EU’s new copyright directive, aka the link tax. This policy requires platforms to pay for unlicensed content that appears in aggregated news services. France is the first member state to carry out the directive. Google reacted with displaying less content rather than pay. Courts will be deciding the next actions.

3. Reader revenue is a major focus for the new decade.

Executives believe reader revenue offers stable and growing income for news publishers. Half of those surveyed report that reader revenue is the most important revenue stream going forward. Subscriptions and memberships help publishers access reader information. In fact, many publishers rely on consumers login to their services for first party data. With new data tracking regulation in play and opt out ad-tracking browsers, publishers need to entice readers to register and login.

4. Audience growth, better measurement and ease of access will continue the growth of podcasts.

By 2021, US podcasting revenue is projected to grow by approximately 30% a year to reach over $1 billion. New formats are being explored from the recognized interview and chat format to new documentary formats.

Bigger audiences, better measurement, and easier access have combined to change the economics of podcasting. This is encouraging publishers to invest in creating more quality content and platforms to invest in better distribution and monetization.

Overall, the report finds that digital publishers seek to diversify revenue and strengthen user engagement with multiple touchpoints and products in the decade ahead. Newsroom have the added challenge of modernizing their presentation without compromising quality and trust and receiving proper compensation from the intermediates. While many industry challenges continue, publishers are well positioned to tackle these issues.

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