It’s only two weeks since the EU referendum and media businesses and their employees are still trying to get their heads around what Brexit might mean for the economy, and for the media industry in particular. The economic and political ramifications of the vote are likely to affect us all from years to come, and it’s too early to accurately say what might happen, but in our conversations with business leaders across the media sector a broad picture is starting to build up.
No matter how bad the economic consequences of Brexit might be, the world hasn’t ended overnight. Whatever happens, the UK will be a member of the EU for at least two years, and no business can afford to sit on its hands until the wider picture becomes clearer. Media companies will still need strong management, and many will still be looking to make changes as they attempt to steer the ship through rocky waters.
In the short term, consumer publishing could be the worst hit. With the sector already suffering a long-term decline in advertising revenues, it’s one of the areas that’s more dependent on consumer confidence, and that’s in short supply at the moment. It’s possible companies may look to put European expansion on hold until things have calmed down. Indeed, one client – a prominent online publisher – has already done this. Overall, the strongest brands and those with the most loyal readership are likely to be okay - while seismic events like this often tend to lead to a bump in circulation for current affairs titles.
One area that, on initial evidence, appears to be pushing ahead as usual is the events sector. A senior figure at one international events company told me that Brexit ‘doesn’t change much’. Why? Well, a multinational base means they’ve relatively few clients in the UK and often they’re paid in currencies other than Sterling. Given the travel involved in the events sector, there may be visa issues down the line, but those do not appear to be feeding into hiring decisions right now.
The fortunes of the B2B information sector are harder to call as they are more dependent on their particular markets. If you’re covering a sector like manufacturing, however, it could be that you’re heavily affected. That said, periods of uncertainty also create the need for good quality information delivered in efficient and useful ways – and organisations covering political or economic risk, or offering real-time financial data, could experience a spike in subscriptions.
In these cases, it’s essential to be able to spot information needs when they occur – if you’re a product manager, data specialist or customer insight professional, you may find your skill set in even higher demand than usual. For hiring managers, well, are you doing everything in your power to ensure your business is staffed and equipped to weather any coming storms?