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.
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
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
It’s not enough for media businesses to be a one-trick pony any more. Outside of the rare Nordic publishers who got into online classifieds early, there are few companies of significant scale who can sustain themselves only through advertising.
While some have gone the business information route, like Skift and other companies in high-value verticals like travel or fashion, an increasing number of media companies are placing their faith in e-commerce.
Put simply, organisations like BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are betting on the relationship with readers and ecosystems they’ve created on their own sites to sell products. There are a number of ways publishers are going about that, whether it’s
We have long argued that the games industry should be treated as seriously as those other pillars of the entertainment business, film and music. Government seems to be getting the message, and – as we reported last month – the figures certainly stack up.
But perhaps the BBC is still struggling with the idea of games as a grown-up industry in its own right. When the industry does get coverage (on the Today show, for example), the presenters are typically as well informed as, say, a US senator facing a Facebook Chief Executive.
And then there was last week’s broadcast of the BAFTA Games Awards ceremony. If there is one thing
George Orwell wrote that jargon and obfuscating language contributes to the degradation of the English language to the point that meaningful dialogue is impossible.
He might have had a point, too: The term ‘fake news’, which the Reuters Institute recommended should be stripped from conversation around online misinformation, was meaningless almost as soon as it was born, allowing it to be hijacked by politicians with an anti-media bent. One of the people who coined it, BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman, has admitted culpability in that (though he can’t really be blamed for not predicting how it was to be co-opted), and I’ve been arguing it should be retired as a term since August of last year. Because it was jargon, ‘fake news’ has made discourse about misinformation impossible.
New report, published today by @EU_Commission High Level Group on disinformation, contains: “a clear and unequivocal abandonment of the term ‘fake news’. @rasmus_kleis #fake #news https://t.co/UbKwHmW2x8
— Reuters Institute (@risj_oxford) March 12, 2018
‘Millennial’, too, has drawn ire as being completely useless as a description of an entire generation’s habits and trends. It has led to
Not long ago I spoke to the CEO of a magazine publishing business, one which has been doing pretty well by the standards of the wider market. Its advertising and subscription revenues are holding up reasonably well, but growth has stalled. One reason for this is that the business is siloed by discipline, rather than by product range – so that the editors, salespeople and marketers all sit in different reporting lines, with minimal communication between them. The publishers, the people who might be expected to come up with new revenue streams – from events to online content marketing solutions – have responsibility for their revenue numbers but no direct control over their sales teams. As a result, they have fewer levers to pull and no way to put their plans into action. The result is a dearth of new ideas in the business, while the reporting lines make it difficult to attract the kind of talent who might be able to take the business forward.
Another example is a B2B publishing company with decades of success behind it. The organisation was, for many years, organised as a set of business units whose managers were incentivised purely on profit, rather than on revenue or other KPIs. For a long time, this worked. But it also disincentivised
Boom – and we’re off. Like it or not.
The EU ambassador has just delivered official notification to Donald Tusk of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union.
Whatever your views about the result of the referendum, Brexit is now a reality, and is the environment in which we will all be operating.
So what does this mean for the industries we work in? We carried out a quick Brexit survey in the Autumn last year to ask people how they saw the future for their own business, and for the economy in general.
A summary of the results is below. But we would also like to see how – or if – sentiment has changed in the six months since then. Click on this link to complete an updated survey. This will only take two minutes.
Ad blocking was labelled as an existential threat to ad-supported digital content by some (including us on occasion), but its anticipated growth has failed to materialise and digital publishers are breathing a sigh of relief.
According to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK, the proportion of British adults using ad blocking software online in February was 22.1%.
The figure is less than half-a-percent more than in the same month last year and shows growth almost grinding to a halt. In February 2016, year-on-year growth of those using ad blockers stood at around six percent.
The Press Association heralded a new phase of mechanised journalism in the UK with this week’s announcement that it will use ‘robot’ reporters to add to coverage of sport, business and elections.
The national reporting agency will augment its existing reportage, in the next few months, by offering ‘an extra level when it comes to short market reports, election results and football reporting,’ its editor-in-chief, Pete Clifton, told the Society of Editors conference.
According to the Press Gazette, Clifton told delegates the new service would work in a similar way to that used by Denmark’s national reporting agency, which produces hundreds of additional market reports a month with ‘robot’ journalists piecing together these simple stories.
Robot reporters might seem like something plucked from the pages of satirical science fiction, but their use is already very real.
So Verizon has been at it again: bagging a former digital behemoth for a fraction of its peak market value in the hope that some of the old magic remains.
To put that in perspective, Microsoft offered $45bn for the business in 2008, but was turned down by the Yahoo’s then management on the basis that the business was worth much more. Way to go, as they say in Silicon Valley.
As the fallout over Brexit rumbles on, with infighting on all sides of the debate, it’s perhaps worth considering the part the media played in the run up to the polls.
The three main media influences – broadcast, newspapers (and their digital equivalents), and social media – all played very different but significant roles in the debate. For one reason or another, and whether through omission or policy, it is my view that all three ended up broadly supporting the intentions of the Leave campaign.
The long-term viability of digital publications that rely on scaling audience has been called into question in the last few months. Digital advertising has continued to grow, but increasingly the idea of a business model focused on generating a massive readership or viewership is becoming outmoded by the fluctuating demands of advertisers.
There’s also a prevailing feeling in the media industry that there’s too much content chasing too little advertising cash. This doesn’t necessarily mean that cutting back on both content and audience size will be beneficial, just that a new way looking at the quality of content and its ‘appropriateness’ to the audience is taking hold.
With this new approach come a requirement for new skills, and increasingly digital media businesses are looking to hire heads of Audience Development to their senior management teams.
2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
From consumer publishers wrestling with whether or not to install paywalls, to information providers struggling to place a value on their output in a crowded marketplace, the one thing media companies seem to get wrong time and again is pricing. Of course every business is different, and there’s no on-size-fits-all solution, but in almost ten years as a headhunter the issue of how and what to charge the customer has seemed to plague the media market.
Paul Mason, the economics editor of Channel 4 News, comes closest to identifying the crux of the problem that faces most media companies in the digital world. In his recent book, PostCapitalism, Mason says that as digital replaces physical media, almost everything is reduced to the same state – that of an information product that can be infinitely distributed and replicated at virtually no cost. Whether you’re talking about an episode of Game of Thrones, the historical worldwide prices of bauxite, or a picture of Kim Kardashian, it doesn’t matter – it’s all information that can be reproduced and shared.
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is one of the most derided quotes of all time: simultaneously mocked both for its obviousness and its obscurity, Donald Rumsfeld was trying – ham-fistedly – to explain US foreign policy in Iraq. And we know how well that turned out.
With Christmas round the corner, some retail advertisers are raising fears about the effects the rise in ad-blocking could have on their digital operations. But where the focus was once solely on desk and laptop computing, experts are now asking what steps need to be taken to prevent mobile consumption suffering the same fate.
Earlier this month, my colleague Matt looked at the public appetite – or lack of it – for viewing ads online and suggested some of the creative ways publishers are attempting to combat that antipathy.
Well, love them or hate them, they are all titles that have bucked the wider media trend and maintained strong brands and readerships over the last few years. They have become trusted voices by delivering appropriate content in the way their audience demands – across print, digital, social and video media.
So what can content marketers learn from their success?
It’s all too easy nowadays for marketing messages to be avoided. In such a super-saturated time it seems obvious to say this but, nevertheless, it’s true. Print advertising is growing less effective; ad-blocking software fights against pop-ups and intrusive Google Ads; and YouTube has provided us all with the ultimate get out – the ‘skip ad’ button.
With so many firms throwing digital campaigns in our direction, it’s a wonder any break through and connect with individuals. It’s almost like we need a guide on social media to sift the rubbish on our behalf, tell us what’s stylish, and what to buy. Well, welcome to Influencer Marketing and its cabal of hip, young things waiting to fill us all in on what’s made the cool list.
Every so often, one of our clients will hit it off spectacularly well with a candidate during the first round of the recruitment process. Sometimes, the client even comes back to us, says they’ve found their perfect candidate, and adds it’s unlikely they’ll need a second round of interviews.
It seems perfectly natural, doesn’t it? If you have limited time – and you think you’ve already identified the person who would be the best fit – then why bother continuing with the process?
Well, let me tell you, no matter how constrained your time scale, the answer from us will always be loud and clear: even if you think you’ve found the right person, continue the recruitment interviews…
Bringing in new staff to run and, hopefully, improve the performance of a business means that payroll – alongside commercial rent – is often the biggest expense a company faces; but a typical business knows comparatively little about the real motivational factors that drive their workforce once they have got them through the door.
What if smart use of data could help firms understand their employees better? How would that change the criteria on which they base their hiring choices?
Big Data is usually talked about in terms of what it can do for consumers and customer relationships, but what happens when you apply its principles to staffing?
What happens when a firm starts to look scientifically at information about its employees? What happens when it starts to apply People Analytics?
As an executive search firm serving the media and information sectors, a large number of recent briefs have focused on hiring people to drive or assist transformational or cultural change within a client organisation.
The majority of our clients have been looking for executives and managers with a proven track record in changing the way teams work and/or think.
For the hiring firm it’s often difficult to know the exact qualities they should look for when hiring new people to bring change to their business. What makes a good manager of change? It can be so different from one business to the next, it’s often difficult to draw up a specific list of requirements. There are, however, a few fundamentals – things to look for – that hiring firms should take into consideration when recruiting for change management.
While Martin Tripp Associates specialise in filling high-level positions right across the media sector, the vast majority of searches we’ve completed over the last three or four years have had one thing in common: nearly all of them have been about finding executives to assist in a transition from print to digital, or increasingly, from one kind of digital presence to a more advanced one.
In that context, the job title ‘Head of Digital’ can seem anachronistic. After all, if your business is digital-first (as many of our clients now are) then virtually every department – editorial, sales, marketing, product development, the lot – should have digital skills at the core.
However, some clients still have successful print businesses with separate digital teams that need to be managed. In that context, when they’re recruiting a Head of Digital, what they really need a matrix-managing figure to establish digital best-practice across the business.
As an executive search firm which specialises in making senior leadership hires in the media and information sector, we are often asked to find general managers who have a track record in leading international/global teams.
Many of our clients have operations in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas, as well as in Europe.
Leaders who have experience of managing geographically-disparate and culturally-varied teams are essential if these firms are going to work well and in a cohesive fashion.
When recruiting global team managers, a hiring firm should look for a candidate who has experience in, and insists on, these core competencies:
Content marketing. It’s come to save us all, hasn’t it? With consumers looking around every available social network for information and entertainment, all brands have to do is provide satisfying content and in return people will be only to pleased to fill their coffers. Right?
Well, stone me. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, brands are either having difficulty (or simply not bothering to…) to measure the value of their work.
Just 21 per cent of B2B marketers claimed they were successfully tracking the ROI of their content marketing campaigns.
If you buy ad space on behalf of advertisers and a technology comes along that, almost overnight, undermines your business model and makes it staggeringly easy for clients to place ads themselves, you might well have a few sleepless nights, perhaps even considering what other ad sales jobs are available.
Well, say hello to ‘programmatic advertising’.
The term isn’t one familiar to many, but for those focused on the future of ad sales and marketing, programmatic advertising is rapidly becoming the thing that dominates their thinking.
A few weeks ago, a disgruntled newspaper journalist said to me “the rationale seems to be ‘why bother doing your USP well, when you can do the ubiquitous badly?’” It’s a question many journalists of my acquaintance have been struggling with. I’m sure they would sympathise with Gareth Davies, Chief Reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, who publicly vented his fury on Twitter after fellow Local World website, the Maidstone & Medway News, ran a story on the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal.
I’m sure most people would agree this isn’t a story of immediate relevance to the Maidstone & Medway area, and many journalists of my acquaintance are queasy to say the least about the proliferation of ‘clickbait’. The website’s editor, Simon Finlay, defended the decision, saying “we’re trying to drive an audience to our site… [these stories] do get us thousands of hits and that’s a good thing.”
Nearly a third of publishers in the UK have not heard of programmatic advertising, according to a recent survey by tech firm AppNexus. For a technology that has been widely touted as the future of the publishing industry, this is faintly astonishing.
So what is programmatic advertising?
In a nutshell, it’s a form of online display advertising that relies on complex algorithms to set a series of criteria that when met trigger the deployment of ads. Campaigns are booked and optimised via a simple web interface.