Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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9 highlights from Media Moments 2020

What’s New in Publishing’s annual Media Moments report, sponsored by Permutive and written by the Media Voices team, rounds up all the key events and trends that have shaped the publishing and media landscape this year.

It delves into how data and advertising, trust, reader revenue, print, diversity and more have changed the industry, and how organisations have responded.

The report’s nine chapters each give an overview of the moments which have defined the past year, along with a look at where we are now, what we can expect to happen next year, and a collection of case studies of publishers and brands who have made their mark, for better or worse.

The special episode below includes the audio of our launch presentation for the Media Moments 2020 report:

You can download the full report here. Here are nine of our highlights:

1: UK newspaper sales were down -40% at their worst point during lockdown

Covid-19 crushed newsstand sales and advertising revenues for many newspapers and magazines, but caused a spike in subscription revenues for others, and drove real innovation in some businesses. But as heroic as some performances were, survival might come down to who has the biggest cash reserves.

2: Despite the pandemic, UK podcast ad spend is forecast to rise 14.7% over the course of 2020

Without the commute, the worry was that podcast revenue would slip. But podcasting has been hardy enough to weather the storm, with over 130,000 new shows added to Apple Podcasts in June – the highest amount ever. Now, with eyes turning to the opportunities around engaged listeners, everyone’s trying to cash in on this growing audience.

3: 45% of ads were blocked from appearing on The Washington Post in March through one ad software company, due to Covid-19 keyword blocking

As the pandemic took hold, advertisers rushed to add Covid-19-related keywords to their blocklists, seeing it as ‘brand unsafe’. By February, ‘coronavirus’ had become the second most common word on blocklists for news publishers, with the most common being ‘Trump’. Ad verification agency Integral Ad Science had over 3,000 advertisers blocking the term, resulting in 45% of ads from the agency being prevented from appearing on The Washington Post in March.

4: Condé Nast UK saw 420% YoY growth in new subscriptions during the pandemic

Reader revenues have been top of publishers’ commercial agendas for a few years now, and 2020 has really driven home why. As publishers overly reliant on advertising revenues stuttered, those with robust reader revenue bases have thrived. Condé Nast isn’t an anomaly; Hearst’s new subscriber acquisitions have doubled year-on-year, Immediate Media has reported subscription increases of 300%, and at the end of April, Bauer saw the number of new subscriptions purchased online up over 160% compared with 2019.

5: Despite publishers proving themselves to be on the public’s side this year, only 38% of people say they trust news overall

2020 saw the logical conclusion of trends that have been ongoing over the past few years; the denigration of the press by both the left and right, rising public awareness of malicious disinformation on social media, and accusations of bias all round. Although people still have high levels of trust for the news outlets with which they feel affinity, fully one quarter of women and 18% of men are now actively avoiding any news about the pandemic.

6: 3 in 4 of the 52,000 attendees of the FT’s virtual Global Boardroom event were previously unknown to the publisher

Whether it’s been virtual events on Facebook Live or exclusive Q&A sessions via Zoom, we’ve read so many stories of real innovation in the events space this year as revenues from physical gatherings were decimated. The Financial Times is one example; they put on a virtual Global Boardroom event in just a few weeks which ended up attracting 52,000 attendees. Tickets were free, but crucially 3 in 4 of those attendees were previously unknown to the publisher. That data is now fuelling its subscription marketing funnels, bringing in long term value beyond the event.

7: By September, there were 106+ magazine covers featuring Black people or BLM messaging

The Black Lives Matter movement shot to international prominence in 2020, with the upswell of support focusing attention on media organisations themselves as much as anywhere else. By September, Samir ‘Mr Magazine’ Husni had been able to collect 106 magazines featuring Black people or expressing BLM support. A magazine cover doesn’t mean the world has changed, but they are reflective of an industry fundamentally reconsidering how it works.

8: Google has promised to pay more than $1 billion in licensing content from publishers over the next 3 years

In June, Google said they would create a licensing program to pay publishers for high quality content as part of their new news product, Google News Showcase. This will pay out $1 billion over the next three years. As part of this pledge, Google has also offered to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on publisher’s sites to help them grow their audiences. The extra support for publishers is great, but there are concerns over the longevity and fairness of the licensing system, especially as governments worldwide threaten Google and Facebook with regulation.

9: Axios now gets 50% of its total revenue from newsletters

Just as 2020 accelerated trends around ecommerce and audience consumption habits, 2021 will accelerate trends around monetisation that emerged over the course of this year. New and lucrative touchpoints with audiences are appearing all the time. Axios is one of the key beneficiaries of the newsletter boom, but so are individual journalists. More than anything else, we expect that 2021 will see some wild experimentation as we adjust to a post-Covid world.

You can download the full report here.