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Media’s Third Phase

As consumers enter the Second Wave of the pandemic, the media business is moving into its Third Phase in 2020. That is one of the key findings of Wessenden Marketing’s latest mediafutures report, produced in association with InPublishing, Flashes & Flames and FOLIO.

Media’s Third Phase
Jim Bilton: “The smoke is now clearing and it is easier to see what is going on.”

The report identifies three distinct phases of business activity since the start of the pandemic.

  • Phase 1 was several weeks of panic as publishers secured their content pipelines and stabilised their businesses.
  • During the Summer, Phase 2 was a period of intense activity which included savage cost-cutting and a concerted drive into digital, subscriptions and virtual events. This was often backed up by giving away content free or at heavily discounted rates, sometimes needlessly, in order to hold on to the audience base. This was mirrored in M&A activity, with a surge in portfolio swaps and brand purging.
  • Now Phase 3 has started. Activity is more measured, strategic and planned, although still being executed at high speed and with company casualties continuing.

Jim Bilton, Managing Director, Wessenden Marketing: “The smoke is now clearing and it is easier to see what is going on. At one extreme, many companies have gone through much of their restructuring pain and are ready to ride the ongoing business rollercoaster. At the other extreme, there are companies, including some digital-only businesses, who are only just holding on by their fingertips and who still need to make some radical changes to their creaking business models. And tracking business models is exactly what the mediafutures project is all about.”

The long-term perspective

With data on the UK going back to 2009, the mediafutures report tracks the long-term trends across a wide range of metrics, which include the shift out of print and into digital, the move from ad revenue to content revenue, the collapse of live events, the drop in retail sales and the rise in subscriptions – to name just a few trends.

The report highlights four topline industry metrics:

  • Turnover. After the massive pandemic dive in 2020, a strong recovery is predicted in 2021, but not back up to 2019 levels.
  • Profitability. More stable than turnover - the result of ongoing and grinding cost control. A good recovery in 2021 after the 2020 dip.
  • Headcount. A diving metric which shows that much of the industry is still in the middle of its massive reboot as it continues to restructure.
  • Marketing budgets. Continuing their long downward trend, showing a dropping investment in brands – a worrying pattern.

The international perspective

This year, the mediafutures survey has gone international with Colin Morrison’s Flashes & Flames and FOLIO in the USA as two new partners. Comparing the USA with Europe, it is clear that America is deeper into the change process and is more digital than Europe. Yet there is one major qualifier: the US media model is still much more dependent on advertising & sponsorship, which leaves it more vulnerable.

Colin Morrison, Founder, Flashes & Flames: “What has always made mediafutures unique is that it is based on senior executives within the industry sharing their financial data, insights and opinions in confidence. The record level of participation this year underlines the hunger for understanding how the overall business is moving and how fast. We have created a new Report Pack Bundle, which provides an unprecedented insight into how the media industry works, especially in these disruptive times.”

The mediafutures Report Pack Bundle

This year, two reports have been published, with a data bridge linking them:

  • mediafutures EUROPE (177 participating media companies: a record number, says Wessenden Marketing)
  • mediafutures USA (154 participating media companies: a new dimension for the report)

The reports include companies in Consumer Media, Customer Media, B2B, Events and News Media (nationals & regionals). The companies range from legacy, print-only operations through to digital-only start-ups.

The mediafutures Report Pack Bundle will be available to buy and download next week.

For more information on any aspect of mediafutures, contact Jim Bilton.