December 19, 2018

13 seconds from Brexit: a year of financial services media in numbers


By Andy Lane, Partner, Financial Services

You know the end of the year is almost upon us when newspapers and their online counterparts start making it their mission to prove that Santa doesn’t hold a monopoly on Christmas lists.

Perhaps it’s due to shorter attention spans as people rush to empty their inboxes before a well-earned break, but there are times when you can barely turn a page or click a hyperlink during December without stumbling across some kind of 2018 year-in-review.

We’re far from immune, but also wise enough to know that – with client needs to attend to – we shouldn’t attempt to recreate the many insightful and exhaustive summaries of financial services industry developments from the last 12 months that you’ve already read elsewhere.

Instead, we’ve taken some brief time out from assessing annual trends in clients’ brand visibility, competitor share of voice, spokesperson visibility and key message penetration to see what quirks we can spot in the numbers that make up financial services news coverage in 2018.

UK media’s recession obsession

Ten years on from the 2008 crash, this year predictably brought a raft of coverage harking back to the events of a decade ago while also trying to predict when the next downturn will show up at the door. All in all, the phrase ‘financial crisis’ has been cited nearly 150,000 times by UK media sources during 2018 at an average of over 400 times a day.

The Financial Times lead the way with almost 5,000 mentions alone, followed by CNBC Europe and the Daily Mail. The lingering reputational damage of its state bail-out means that Royal Bank of Scotland is still the most frequently cited financial services brand in this context, with Barclays also trailed by Goldman Sachs and Lehmann Brothers in the media narrative.

Bitcoin’s falling media currency still outperforms its monetary value

Much like the currency itself, media appetite for Bitcoin peaked way back in January with almost 15,500 monthly mentions, led by Yahoo! Finance and – perhaps surprisingly – the Daily Express. By November, mentions had plummeted to around 9,100: a dizzying drop of 41%.

All the same, anyone who invested in Bitcoin at the height of its New Year boom might jump at the chance to sell now and limit themselves to that degree of loss. The currency’s falling media stock has still comfortably outperformed its monetary value against both pound and dollar over the course of the year.

Trump leads the way for ESG name-checks

The ethical acronym for environmental, social and governance made an increasingly widespread and sustained impact in 2018. It found its way into nearly 14,000 articles from UK media sources, peaking in October at nearly three times the level of interest seen back in January.

Blackrock was the second most cited organisation, behind MSCI, in articles that also reference ESG. Its CEO and chairman Laurence D. Fink holds the same position in a rundown of the most frequently mentioned public figures, but finds himself in perhaps less desirable company. The most regularly recurring name was that of President Donald Trump – who seems unlikely to top anyone’s list of celebrity advocates for responsible investing in 2019.

House price media revival

Brits love bricks, and while homebuyer and seller appetite has been dampened by economic uncertainty, property prices experienced an unexpected media revival during the autumn. September and November were the annual high points for UK-based coverage of a topic that is never far from the front pages when times are good or bad.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney was one of the primary factors responsible for inflating media interest in property values. The Bank’s worst-case scenario warnings of a 35% house price fall if the UK exits the EU with no deal in March 2019 had the effect of driving house price coverage up by 75% in one month from August to September – not that many market watchers were grateful for the contribution.

And finally – did someone mention Brexit?

No review of the year, however brief, would be complete without mentioning the subject that has now appeared nearly 2.4 million times and counting in UK-based print, online and broadcast media.

With 525,600 minutes in the year, the B-word has inspired an article or broadcast by a journalist, presenter or blogger roughly once every 13 seconds since the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day. Where will it end!? Answers on a postcard to Theresa May, c/o 10 Downing Street (for now…)

All figures quoted refer to articles and broadcasts by UK-based sources between 1st January and 18th December 2018, sourced from Signal Media’s monitoring platform. If you could benefit from a slightly more scientific analysis of your brand and spokespeople’s media profile and how your corporate messages are landing with priority publications, please get in touch at