FEATURE 

Opportunities & Threats: National News Media

No-one looking at publishing at the moment can ignore, or underestimate, the impact of either The C Word or The B Word.

By Ray Snoddy

Opportunities & Threats: National News Media

Alas, C + B equals one of the most difficult trading environments of recent times and one coming on top of the challenges of technology and changing consumer behaviour.

Can anything be done? Does any shred of optimism amount to little more than whistling in the dark?

Actually, there are clear reasons for hope, if not quite euphoria.

Across the developed world, the C Word has highlighted the importance of reliable, properly checked information provided by traditional publishers – a case of information sometimes making the difference between life and death.

Everywhere, trust in public service media, whether in print, broadcast or online, has soared. Never has the contrast been greater between the output of established publishers and the odd mix of fact, fiction and conspiracy theories pumped out by the social media.

Young people have even found they did indeed need the news after all.

Publishers and journalists should march into 2021 with a spring in their step knowing the small miracles that were conjured up daily from back bedrooms across the land.

The opportunity now lies in highlighting that trust and turning it into business advantage after the dark months when national newspapers found themselves facing empty city centres.

Trust, if it is maintained and earned every single day, is the best way to attract advertisers back, despite the difficulty of the challenge.

Trust and the B Word is a little more problematic as a concept. Right-of-centre newspapers, which uncritically accepted stories of “sunny uplands” and a “wonderful” future for a sovereign UK, might find they have some explaining to do.

What the current virus crisis has emphasised, already grasped by many, is the power of subscription.

It’s not possible for every publisher, but for those that can, the argument is over. In times of crisis and political turmoil, and we have both, subscription equals regularity, loyalty and financial stability.

At the same time, the aim should always be to create the maximum number of streams of revenue – cover price and advertising but also podcasts, sponsorship and live events when they return.

A business cynic once said that you should never waste a good crisis.

In a more positive sense, this crisis, or crises, should be used to drive innovation, not least in working patterns.

Not everyone wants to work from home forever but neither do we want to recreate newsrooms of yore in their entirety.

A more flexible, efficient middle way is there to be grasped.

All in all, there are still reasons to be cheerful despite C + B.

Trust, if it is maintained and earned every single day, is the best way to attract advertisers back, despite the difficulty of the challenge.

This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide, an annual directory distributed with InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.