With the continued presence of the coronavirus, 2021 appears far from “business as usual.” However, for many publishers, the pandemic acted as an accelerator in media innovation. New ideas for formats, operations and business models were quickly put into action. Now, we see that many of these quick pivots in business practices are becoming long-term plans. Reuters Institute’s annual report, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2021, identifies changes, trends and predictions for the media marketplace. Reuters surveyed 234 media leaders across 43 countries to create the report.
Two key themes identified in this study include newsroom transformation and a renewed focus on revenue diversification efforts (see full report for additional trends and predictions).
Journalists continue to work remotely and use online tools like Zoom, Slack, and Teams for interviews and collaboration. 2021 brings a remix of the in-person and virtual to the newsroom. However, the sustainability of hybrid newsrooms looks uncertain with many questioning the creativity and production quality delivered in a virtual setting.
According to Reuters, journalists want more face-to-face interactions and to renew a community focus in their work. That said, new technologies and approaches may offer more community participation with crowd-sourced content and audience-driven investigations. In terms of format and delivery, news stories will focus more on data and visual storytelling formats. Breaking down complex stories to create easily understandable content is a key objective.
Media businesses face continued competition from Google and Facebook, which account for most of the advertising growth in the marketplace. This leaves publishers with little to no growth in their advertising revenues. Given this reality, publishers continue their efforts to grow digital subscriptions and other reader revenue in 2021. Further, publishers are exploring new member benefits and price reductions to retain readers who subscribed during Covid-19.
Reuters’ data shows that publishers, on average, report four different revenue streams as being important or very important to them this year. The top four revenue streams publishers are focusing on include subscriptions (76%); display advertising (66%); native advertising (61%) and events (40%).
In addition, e-commerce is forecast to double over the next four years to $7 trillion, driving publisher interest in this area. Many plan to curate their content to offer a direct consumer pathway to purchases. Reuters cites Wirecutter from the New York Times and the Strategist from New York Magazine/Vox Media, as examples of successful sites earning affiliate revenue. Publishers are also joining the e-shopping sites, like Buzzfeed’s Tasty brand. They now create their own cooking products and link to the Tasty site.
Others seek to join in the subscription economy. They are testing their strength in selling other company’s subscription offerings in areas such as music, fitness, flowers, and food. Publishers with scale and strong data targeting may prove to profitable in these sales efforts.
2021 looks to be another year characterized by experimentation and transformation. Publishers find themselves providing content across multiple connection points. However, many product offerings and end-goals remain the same. Publishers continue to focus on offering relevant and engaging content in exchange for consumer loyalty and long-term sustainability. The road to success is the ability to be nimble while speedily translating new learnings into actionable business practices.