A changing media landscape
Like so many sections of society, the media landscape has changed in the last six months and this week we’re taking a moment to reflect on what it means for us as communications professionals.
Going back to the early days of lockdown, we saw one of the most dramatic and instant changes in consumer behaviour and media consumption we’ve ever witnessed. Netflix saw subscription levels rocket as consumers craved entertainment and news outlets saw readership rise as consumers followed how the pandemic was unfolding.
While media consumption reached record highs, especially at the beginning of lockdown, it wasn’t all plain sailing as companies dramatically cut advertising revenues, the lifeblood of many media outlets’ income. For example, Mail Online reported a 39% increase in daily unique browser in March, but later the group reported advertising was down 11% in the last nine months with circulation down 7%. As a result many editorial staff have been put on furlough or made redundant as news outlets look to cut costs.
A decline in newspaper and magazine circulation was inevitable as it became harder to distribute physical copies in lockdown. Looking at two titles that rely on commuter traffic; Evening Standard halved circulation in March and City AM stopped printing completely and focused on its online offering. Many trade publications cut delivery of their physical copies to offices as workers stayed at home and also focused their efforts online.
In response to these developments, print media has accelerated its shift to digital at lightning speed.
For example the FT – which has been gradually moving from a print-led model to a digital-first approach since 2013 – recently cited Covid-19 as having sped up the rate of changes as it announced FTfm was becoming a digitally-led publication, with the last weekly edition printed on 17th August.
It is clear that trends that were already developing pre-Covid have been accelerated. A report from PWC sums it up perfectly: “It’s little surprise that a home-bound nation is accessing more entertainment and information online.”
Tone of voice
While lockdown restrictions are starting to be lifted and the rate of change is slowing, these trends are set to continue and it is impacting how communications professionals work.
Firstly tone of voice and strategy need to be reassessed. During times like these, brands need to adopt suitable messaging that demonstrates their trustworthiness and their values, rather than focusing on the hard sell. Communications need to be looked at through a new lens; is the strategy still relevant and are the channels still right?
When dealing with the media an understanding and appreciation of the changes that have taken place is crucial.
From an editorial point of view, Evening Standard’s Simon English recently explained the changes “Prior to lockdown, the website wouldn’t change until 12pm at the earliest… Now you will see stuff going up very soon after 7am… we will be trying to add breaking news in the afternoon – something previously only of passing interest.”
In addition, there are less journalists working harder to fill pages and some are covering for furloughed colleagues with less knowledge of the company or sector.
The implications for communications professionals are vast, but in order to succeed the fundamentals remain; have a good story and understand the media landscape, however quickly it changes.