• Two thirds of performance venues have lost over 70% of revenues, our survey shows
• Government help covers less than 30% of those losses, 87% of venue leaders say
It is clear that the UK is about to suffer a severe recession. But some industries will be hit much harder than others. We have conducted a survey of CEO’s and leaders of theatres and performing arts businesses, and the results are shocking.
Over the last few weeks we have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of business leaders to understand how they are adapting to the current crisis. These range from global corporates to early stage start-ups across media, information, technology and entertainment – or MITE. Even with such a broad range of organisations, there’s a common thread that unites them.
It sort of works as an equation – and though it may not offer a panacea, it may be a predictive shorthand for which companies will come out of the crisis strongest.
We think you can boil it down to this: Community + Content + Delivery = Habit.
(Reductive, we know: but this is a blog, not a book, and we only have a thousand words.)
First, let’s start with the right-hand side of the equation: the answer.
All MITE businesses depend on habit. We need people to have
Epic’s latest iteration of the engine – Unreal 5 – was revealed this week. Via a tech demo running in real time on a Playstation 5 dev kit, the world finally got its first look at what the future of gaming really looks like. Along with many, I witnessed something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid, and something I’ve been hearing about a lot, lately.
I have spent the last couple of years talking to games industry leaders around the world. Our conversations have covered everything
We have written many times about the importance of a free press, and the dangers of governments – including ours – deliberately undermining media credibility. May 3rd was World Press Freedom Day, and Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, wrote a powerful op-ed piece which was published widely overseas this weekend. As far as we know, it has not yet been published in the UK other than on the digital sites of overseas media. We think it is an important piece, and asked Mr Zappulla if we could print his column in full. We are delighted that he has consented.
MEDIA FREEDOM MUST NOT FALL VICTIM TO COVID-19
Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation
As the world grapples with the speed and scale of the devastation wreaked by Covid-19, the need for access to trusted, accurate and independent information has never been so acute. With global mortality rates showing no signs of slowing, the world’s economy knocked off its axis, and society at a standstill, there is no precedent to this emergency. We are fighting it blindfolded. Each day is costing us thousands of lives. But without the vital free-flow of information – learnings from other countries, warnings from medics, expertise from scientists, guidance to the public – we stand no chance of fighting it at all.
A free and vibrant media is more important than ever. Yet one of most catastrophic fallouts of this crisis is that it is paving the way for a crackdown on press freedoms across the world. A dangerous pattern seems to be emerging; it sees some governments
Steps to help you deal with remote working and social distancing.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus began, we have been speaking with business leaders about how they are dealing with the sudden need to change the typical working practices of their businesses and their employees.
While the logistics of remote working are challenging, the real challenge lies in ensuring the health and wellbeing of home-working employees. It is important not just for their own mental health, but also to ensure your business stays productive. With this in mind, we have been attending webinars organised by our friends at Thrive, the mental health specialists. As a result, we were able
What is journalism for?
Paul Chadwick had a crack at answering this small question in the Guardian in November. His answer is nuanced, but boils down to four key elements: to “help civil society cohere”, to “facilitate democratic processes”, to “lubricate commerce”, and to “make and mix” culture. These are all valid observations, and nothing I will say below will contradict them. But I do think there is a more fundamental answer.
On the Today programme this morning there were three items which examined aspects of the same question. Jim Mullen, new CEO of Reach, defended his newspapers’ treatment of Caroline Flack and their approach to local journalism; Julian Assange’s lawyer spoke in his defence ahead of his extradition hearing; and the unlikely duo of Toby Young and Trevor Phillips spoke in defence of free speech and the launch of Young’s Free Speech Union.
It is striking that all the articles were in defence of their subject. Journalism is under attack from all sides.
We haven’t seen the last of the print closures. Between falling circulations in at-risk genres like the women’s weekly, the acquisition of regional news organisations by huge companies with a reputation for cutting the fat and then some, and the bleak reality that smaller newspapers don’t have the resources to pour into making digital work, the trajectory for print products remains obvious.
One of the last trials faced by an editorial team, then, at the end of a losing battle to sustain the P&L of their print product, is deciding how to bow out. There will always have to be a ‘final’ last page – the short turnaround on papers and the sentiment that people have towards them would allow for nothing less. But there are ways and ways of going about setting that final masthead and choosing the language of the final headline. Over the past few years we’ve seen more than a couple.
The announcement of the long-mooted AppleNews+ was, broadly, not a surprise. Publishers had been aware that a new subscription product from Apple was coming down the pipe for months, and based on leaks we mostly knew exactly what was being announced.
AppleNews+ is a subscription-based magazine and news app that builds on Apple’s existing work with Texture. Priced at $9.99 per month in the United States, the service sells itself to news and magazine publishers on the basis that it gets them into the pockets of potentially every single person who owns an iPhone.
However, what was a surprise (albeit a welcome one) was the reaction of the newspaper organisations, of which only the Wall Street Journal was tempted into the AppleNews+ scheme. For the most part, where the reaction wasn’t muted, it was very negative, with people pointing out the offer to publishers was a recipe for brand destruction. It appears that – finally – news publishers
Last week the NYT’s chief executive Mark Thompson warned other publishers to be wary of jumping into bed with Apple’s soon-to-be-announced news subscription service. He told Reuters: “We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else. We’re also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else’s journalism.” Later on in the interview he cited the example of broadcasters giving Netflix their most valuable shows before they quite realised what a competitor the streaming service would ultimately be, warning against giving your usurper the tools needed to supplant you.
If anyone knows what they’re talking about when it comes to subscription success, it’s Mark Thompson. The New York Times’ triumph in that area is held up as a shining beacon for other news companies to emulate. It has a new target of 10 million subscribers by 2025 after it surpassed its own targets for subscribers in the latest quarter, and has undertaken a very smart approach to onboarding new subscribers through offering free student memberships. It has even kept up its ‘Trump bump’ pace despite predictions (including mine) that harnessing an ephemeral national mood was an unsustainable business model in the long term.
A few weeks ago I moderated a panel on the future of print at 2020 Publishing in London. A panel of industry veterans discussed their optimism for the medium, noting that it is still a lucrative endeavour for national newspapers that still print huge numbers of copies, and for B2B and trade magazines.
One thing that I took away from the lively panel was that print absolutely still has a place at the legacy publishers – namely as a source of non-incidental revenue as they transition to newer, more diverse sources of revenue. That’s no surprise; a quick glance at the latest ABC figures suggests that media companies are riding that long tail of print decline in an effort to become primarily digital companies, some more successfully than others.
There has been a lot of hot air surrounding recent advertising controversies – but, beyond the guff, there might also be valuable lessons for employers.
In the wake of #metoo and TimesUp, we have seen an increase in advertising campaigns focused on supporting progressive social change. The release of Gillette’s latest advert followed in the footsteps of Nike’s 2018 campaign faced by Colin Kaepernick: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike’s ‘sacrifice’ amounted to
It is slick programming by ITV to have Noel Edmonds featuring in this year’s I’m a Celebrity….. Why? Because the phrase “Deal or No Deal” is suddenly assuming a sickening relevance. And on December 11th, two days after Celebrity… reaches its climax, MPs will vote on whether to accept or reject the withdrawal agreement the government has agreed.
Let’s be clear: the deal is problematic. Its description of future trading arrangements is necessarily scant, due to the EU’s insistence that those cannot be discussed until after the Brexit deal has been struck; the Northern Ireland backstop plan is imperfect (though overblown by trumpeting politicians); and, yes, the
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier in the year, you’d expect that platforms like Facebook would be rather more careful about how it exploits user data. Research has shown that consumer concerns over misuse of user data is one of the primary reasons why people choose to use ad blockers, and since user data is effectively the commodity on which the platforms operate, any further scandals are likely to have a cooling affect on their business models. Earlier this month a study from Pivotal Research Group found that people were spending less time across Facebook’s platforms (though it couldn’t say if that was specifically due to associaion with Cambridge Analytica).
Unfortunately Facebook has now been implicated in yet another potential misuse of user data: It registered a patent that uses geolocation to provide friend recommendations to people who are physically close to you. Or, as Lisa Vaas put it for Naked Security, “Facebook wants to reveal your name to the weirdo standing next to you.”
For some time now, commentators have been noting the wave of change finally brought around regarding female representation in the creative industries, including us in our blog on #metoo. On our screens, this has been playing out with the notable increase in women in prominent roles: Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly made the first prime time female presenting duo in 2014, and this year Jodie Whittaker became our first female Doctor Who.
This change is starting to be seen behind the scenes as well. Of 201 men who have lost their jobs following accusations of sexual harassment in the past year, 43% of those who have been replaced have been replaced by women. The NYT has put together a handy list. But has enough been done? How far do we still have to go?
Well, only 36% of jobs in the creative sector are currently filled by women. At a senior level women are even less represented, making up only 11% of Creative Directors or equivalent across the sector. In TV, only 17% of output in a recent survey was helmed by female directors. This
No doubt you’ll have seen the latest Facebook controversy (no, not that one): the social network didn’t let news publishers know about a bug that discounted people who watched less than three seconds of video, thereby artificially increasing the statistics around how long people were consuming videos on average. As a result, some people are claiming that Facebook effectively created the pivot to video that saw newspapers and magazines shed tons of editorial roles in favour of video teams, to cater for this new audience demand for video content. Some are even suing Zuckerberg’s brainchild over it.
Due to all the broken promises and missed expectations that came with news publishers’ rush into video, it’s easy to forget that the reasons behind the drive to produce more digital video were sound: consumers are viewing ever more video online across OTT services like Netflix, user-generated-content platforms like YouTube, and livestreaming sites like Twitch. Even if the figures around view time were skewed, the trend is undeniable – one of the worst affected companies, Mic, even claims that the inflated metrics weren’t even a consideration in their own change towards digital video.
It seems increasingly likely that Jamal Khashoggi met his death in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. It also seems likely that what brought about the journalist’s torture and murder was his antipathetic coverage of the Saudi regime. And it seems likely that the Saudi regime felt empowered to act with impunity because of the pusillanimity of the international community.
Since 1990, more than 2,500 accredited journalists have been killed around the world for carrying out their work. Some of these cases are high profile: Khashoggi, Daphne Caruana Galicia in Malta, Marie Colvin in Syria, Terry Lloyd in Iraq, Martin O’Hagan in Northern Ireland, and on, and on. All are tragedies. But the vast majority go below the radar. And even those high profile cases have rarely been met with appropriate sanctions.
When did journalists’ lives become so insignificant? Sadly, it is not a new phenomenon. Reuters keeps an “In Memoriam” book, which commemorates those journalists
According to the headlines (and backed up by recent studies) millennials are killing industries: the divorce industry, the diamond industry, and the oil industry, to name a few. For young consumers, it is appears that ethics trumps other concerns when looking for brands to support. This impacts where they invest, what they watch and where they work, with 14% of millennials saying they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry, the highest of any sector.
Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign saw a 3% dip in its share price, which would initially appear to be a red flag for the brand. However, a closer look reveals
Newspapers’ influence is often measured by the number of people its articles reach. You see it in everything from the prominence given to circulation figures, or the raw addressable audience that is afforded by the platforms on which they exist. But the purpose of the fourth estate has to been to hold power in check – and arguably it has been failing in that mission over the past two years. Journalism is reaching more people than ever before, but it’s having less impact than ever.
It’s an issue that’s felt more acutely in local media. The director of local news group the Bureau Local Megan Lucera said: “We’re not hearing stories on the ground. Issues were not being raised at a national level. It came down to a wider identity crisis for news… and local journalism has taken a particular hit.”
However, it’s also true at a national level. Two stories that broke about the purpose of journalism this week brought that dichotomy into stark focus. The first – the left-leaning Observer publishing an op-ed from the UK prime minster Theresa May – was
This week the long-running saga of who will take ownership of Sky has reached a definitive conclusion, with US-based Comcast splurging billions for control of the London-listed pay-TV provider. The battle for the company had been waged for long months between Comcast and Twentieth Century Fox, both of which saw in Sky opportunities to fortify their foothold in a highly competitive market.
So why would the two compete and, ultimately, why would Comcast buy Sky? £17.28 a share (plus £30.6bn in equity) is a huge amount of money for what is effectively a pay-TV company that exists primarily in a saturated market, so what does its purchase add to the business, and how will it change the market?
Fox/Disney throwing in the towel. Selling its 39pc of Sky to Comcast at the offer price.
— Chris Williams (@cg_williams) September 26, 2018
It had been argued that Comcast was the better fit in terms of synergies, with both companies simultaneously offering both content packages and internet/communications infrastructure – but it appears to have been the former that convinced Comcast execs to up their bid for Sky. That in turn led Fox to ‘throw in the towel’ and admit defeat, its ambitions to own the European pay-TV market abandoned.
This week saw credible rumours of the closure of the Glamour magazine brand in the US. For those that knew it (or had at least seen its marketing material) Glamour was the luxury lifestyle brand, perfectly pitched at people who needed expertly curated product recommendations and interviews with today’s most relevant celebrities. This, of course, was also the pitch for many of its contemporaries and, regardless of which title was your particular favourite, that led to issues surrounding differentiation in a shrinking marketplace. Its decision to transition from a print-led to a digital-only title is, in part, to escape that shrinking space, but the danger is that online lifestyle content is an even more crowded space.
Last week also saw the effective closure of The Outline. The Outline was a two-year old digital culture publisher that had a strong brand, a memorable visual identity and had seemingly been doing well, having raised $5.51 million in VC funding in May of this year, putting it
Media has always been a tech-driven business, exploiting, over centuries, the development of papyrus, paper, printing, radio, TV and the World Wide Web. The key to each of these revolutionary technologies is that they made the distribution of content fundamentally easier.
While content is the bedrock on which media companies are built, the adage that ‘context is king’ is undeniably true. It doesn’t matter if you’ve invested in an award-winning team of journalists, or that you’ve spent millions on a world-altering piece of data journalism if nobody sees it and it doesn’t benefit your bottom line. The problem is that when there is so much content, so widely distributed, it’s tough to find your audience.
Media companies have been investing huge amounts in building or licensing proprietary tech solutions in order to counter those pitfalls. News UK, for instance, is approaching the end of a trial of a new tech solution designed to reduce subscriber churn as it tacitly admits it cannot grow subscriber numbers forever, while Schibsted is investing in a new techstack across its many titles which allows for greater personalisation and the surfacing of content relevant to its audience.
The same technology that can be used to tailor content to individual users can also be used to deliver more targeted advertising, which is seen as one way to avoid the race-to-the-bottom nature of most digital display advertising.
Additionally, as the push for more ecommerce revenue continues in the face of squeezed display ad spend, publishers are finding they have to invest significantly in the tech and skills behind such transactions. Writing for Digiday, Max Willens points out that where ecommerce retailers are unwilling or unable to share data on transactions, it’s often up to the publishers themselves to make up that deficiency:
The entrepreneurs behind the imaginatively-named NewTV, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, will be feeling encouraged by their recent round of investment having closed at $1bn. The service promises entertainment providers an avenue onto the world’s billions of smartphones, being specifically designed for mobile use with short-form series of 10-minute episodes. And it seems they have Hollywood and Wall Street convinced, according to Variety:
“Backers include a who’s who of Hollywood studios: Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom, AT&T’s WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner Inc.), Lionsgate, MGM, ITV and Entertainment One. Tech investors include Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group; strategic investors include VC firm Madrone Capital Partners, which led the round, along with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and John Malone’s Liberty Global. The funding officially closed July 31.”
Encouraging, sure. But will it really be enough for to penetrate an already saturated market where similar offerings have since failed? Securing $1 billion from such famous brands is no mean feat but
The Ofcom Communications Market Report is a pretty good bellwether of changing consumer habits. And, like boats reacting to the tide, those changing habits dictate how media companies will act over the next few years, as they change their priorities to benefit from shifting audience attention.
Here are three key takeaways from the latest report that shine a light on where media companies will lie over the next few years.
The UK’s newspaper industry has hit a major milestone – but it’s not a particularly positive one. For the fourth consecutive month in a row every single one of the UK’s leading print titles has seen print declines, with the majority of those titles seeing double-digital YOY falls in circulation. Even The Sun, with a circulation that is somewhat bolstered by bulk copies, saw a 7.6 percent drop in its circulation to 1.45 million copies, meaning that not a single paid-for newspaper in the UK now has a circulation over 1.5 million.
It’s the latest piece of bad news for the industry, though an expected one: Nobody expects print circulations to suddenly leap back up to pre-internet levels, or even to remain static. The danger, however, is that print revenue from advertising won’t have the slow tail-off that circulations are having. The analyst Clay Shirky has predicted a second cliff for print revenue once circulations pass a psychologically important milestone and advertisers stop seeing print as a valuable medium in terms of ROI. Given how important print revenue is for those titles – making up the lion’s share of even the titles with huge digital audiences like the Daily Mail – that would be disastrous. Consequently, time might be running out for some of those papers who haven’t made enough of a transition to new revenue strands.
Having only recently recovered from the GDPR frenzy which gripped the continent in May, some media companies will be feeling relieved that the European Parliament last week sent controversial copyright reforms back to the drawing board. The proposed legislation included Article 11, which would require online platforms – search engines, news aggregators, etc. – to pay publications if they link to them. Article 13 meanwhile would have made copyright enforcement the responsibility of online service providers, and asked them to use content recognition technology to censor material at the point of upload.
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed an increasing inclination from the EU and its member states to privatise tasks which many believe should be undertaken by the police and courts of the respective state. As with the censorship of online hate speech, the ongoing debate has centred around just who ought to be arbiter of these laws – i.e. humans or machines. The trouble is that
Regulation and technological advances threaten many industries: just ask high street bookmakers. But the simultaneous combination of GDPR and the promotion of ad-blocking technologies by the likes of Google and Microsoft is worrying for digital media businesses.
At the same time, ad-blocking has never truly gone away as an issue for publishers. It often gets swept aside by seemingly larger issues like the Duopoly or rampant fraud, but it’s always there in the background, eating into publishers’ digital revenue potential.
It’s come back into view over the past few days after Microsoft announced that its mobile Edge browser for iOS and Android would have an ad-blocker installed by default, perhaps anticipating that post-GDPR audiences will be more savvy about their digital rights. The Verge reports that the feature – currently in beta – is set to be made available more widely and, crucially, won’t require any extra downloads to be used. Microsoft are making it as easy as humanly possible for their users to block ads, using the existing infrastructure of Adblock Plus – and that’s got publishers worried.
With the news that Facebook is betting upon news video to help grow its Watch platform, there has been a fundamental shift in the economics of video news production. Where once entertainment content was used to attract customers and audiences, against whom the broadcasters could sell adverts, the nature of video content has become somewhat flattened and undifferentiated.
That’s due to any number of things – unbundling, the rise of on-demand digital video on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, and the overall conflation of ‘news’ and ‘entertainment’ that has come with homegrown news and analysis on those platforms.
The outgoing President of the CBI has caused a small storm by saying that parts of British industry could become “extinct” unless a proper Brexit deal – including membership of the customs union, the CBI’s preferred approach – is negotiated.
This has attracted the usual binary comments in the media: the ‘we told you so’ from the Remain camp, and the tedious charges of treason from Leave supporters.
But Paul Drechsler’s interview was actually quite nuanced. There was very little that people of either viewpoint could disagree with: he contended that the debates had been ruled by politics rather than economics; that the uncertainty in government was having a knock-on effect to business, making it difficult to make investment decisions; and that the UK’s economy is growing slower than most of its competitors as a result.
These are pretty much incontestable observations. Growth in the British economy is
Readers of Digiday may have noticed an interview with Martin, talking about media’s shift towards subscription-based services. Many of the arguments in there will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It confirms a recent trend we’ve been following – as Google and Facebook continue to hoover up the vast majority of online advertising spend, media companies are increasingly looking to online subscriptions to grow revenues.
Of course, one area of media that worked this out a long time ago is B2B media. High-value subscription-based business information is a sector we expect to continue growing, and the amount of high-level M&A activity in the sector would appear to confirm that. Earlier this year Blackstone agreed to take a majority stake in Thomson Reuters’ Financial & Risk business for over £17bn. IHS Markit followed up a successful merger by agreeing to buy Ipreo in a $1.86bn deal. Our client, Argus Media, was last year acquired by
With PlayStation and Nintendo holding most of the cards when it comes to popular video game exclusives, people have not only been questioning the worth of owning an Xbox, but whether there was any point in Microsoft making another one. So, all eyes were on Microsoft’s E3 conference last night. Some considered it a do or die