A survey from media consulting firm Collingwood Advisory of media owners has suggested that for many, growth, rather than just survival, remains a priority during the crisis.
The ‘Growth Amid Uncertainty’ report is based on a survey of CEOs and Founders of UK-based media firms conducted in May to understand their priorities and responses in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here, we explore some of the key responses, and what they show about media businesses as they navigate the crisis.
Audience an essential priority
One of the primary priorities that emerged was the focus on audiences. When asked about priorities for 2020, a number of the top responses involved developing audiences, with 57% saying that increasing audience engagement was a key priority.
Building valuable audiences was seen as a priority this year for 50% of respondents, with 47% saying that they would actively be undertaking customer insight surveys and developing products as a way of weathering the COVID storm.
“The unifying theme for me is customer focus: delivering value to audiences and clients, providing thought leadership, and listening,” said Piers Bearne, Founder and CEO of Collingwood Advisory. “Clearly, entrepreneurs are having to think hard about resourcing, balance sheet and cashflow, but there’s a community-wide desire to develop audience-led products that’s very encouraging.”
The report advised that media businesses should continue to invest time, and perhaps money if possible, in gathering structured insights about audiences, with market sizing and audience profiling forming an essential part of this. It also recommended putting these audiences at the heart of product development.
Development and launches still going ahead
Despite the ongoing business challenges presented by coronavirus, product development and launches have remained a priority. 82% of the surveyed companies have revised their budgets, with three-quarters having made cuts in some areas, but only 8% of CEOs and Founders have put product development on hold.
In fact, when asked what success would look like in 2020, ‘Launching new products’ was the second most common response next to ‘Maintaining revenues and not losing money’, with 42% of media businesses intending to continue bringing products to market despite coronavirus.
When it comes to actual product development activity, 84% of companies are investing some or significant amounts of energy in pivoting, developing new products and entering new markets.
This is very encouraging for helping these media businesses weather the storm, and will likely set them up to be in a stronger position as things start to return to normal.
Apart from product launches, a key marker of success in 2020 for media owners and founders will be maintaining revenues and not losing money, with 48% of respondents saying this would be their top priority.
This aligns with the biggest challenges that CEOs and Founders said they were facing right now, as retaining revenue – and in the case of events and publishing companies, developing new revenue streams – is their biggest challenge.
As part of this, managing cash flow, dealing with uncertainty, and staffing issues were also high on the list. However, it is encouraging that despite issues many companies are facing with staffing and revenue, less than a third so far have had to cut hours or make staff redundant.
Finally when it comes to success this year, it is also worth noting that 1 in 3 respondents said that ‘Growing reputation and brand value’ was a top priority, showing that a focus on growth is still very much front-of-mind.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for media owners and founders. The coronavirus crisis has required rapid, agile decision-making from most entrepreneurs, but now the time is for structured decision-making. The products developed and investments made now are ones which will have an impact in the medium and long term.
Bearne suggests that independent publishers and media companies prioritise development of key skills like structured decision-making and cross-functional product development. “They are often implicit needs when we work with new clients, so it’s very interesting to see that those are two of the top three issues for CEOs,” he explained.
Finally, the report advises to “use structured, qualified advice to benchmark “what good looks like” with your industry and the wider media sector”. This will be vital in the months to come as businesses of all shapes and sizes navigate their way out of the crisis and build resilience for the future.