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“We’re going full throttle”: How publishers are adapting to the pandemic

The pandemic has been tough on publishers worldwide. Despite the enormity of challenges, quite a few have reported growth. A new research report by M&A firm Media Advisory Partners and content-services company Long Hill Media looks into how they’re doing it. 

The report, How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic, is based on in-depth interviews with 25 C-suite executives (23 of whom are CEOs). They represent a broad profile of media companies, in terms of size, revenue, market (B2B/B2C) and business models. The report covers their business priorities, new initiatives, pain points, revenue performance and future plans.

Source: How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic

“There’s a lot going on”

“All are growth oriented. All are innovating with new business lines and new served markets,” writes Tony Silber, President, Long Hill Media. “From digital products to virtual events, from research and data to lead generation and subscription boxes there’s a lot going on.” 

This report is extraordinarily valuable as a picture of resiliency and adaptation in the media market. Strong companies led by visionary leaders find a way to increase value, and in 2020, the companies that participated in this report did that in volumes.

Mark Holdreith, Managing Partner, MAP

B2B publishers stand out as the most innovative. They are mostly the ones looking to transform themselves in the face of business challenges. Lead-generation and virtual events are the most significant and the most common area of innovation, according to the report. 

“We’re transitioning from a media company to a performance-marketing company,” said a B2B CEO. “We are always going to have media, but it will be used to solve pain points and goals. We will use research and mine data.”

Source: How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic

“Our topline growth will be north of 25%”

Four of the respondents said 2020 was more or less business as usual for them and some didn’t experience notable falloff in revenue. These companies are either all digital and/or rely on subscription products. “Digital businesses have done well because live-event budgets have been diverted to digital marketing,” writes Silber. 

Some publishers also saw revenue growth this year. They are all digital pureplays which have benefited from spending windfalls that would have gone to events. 

Our topline growth will be north of 25%. We’re selling bigger campaigns and adding new clients.

Executive at B2B publisher

The respondents indicated a wide mix of priorities ranging from boosting advertising back to pre-Covid levels to expanding lead-generation, data, research, marketing services and customer-insights. Broadly the priority is diversification of product mix and revenue streams.

Source: How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic

“New talent, new capabilities, new capital, and new tech solutions”

Majority of the respondents said that they are focusing on either lead generation and database proficiency, or building up virtual or hybrid events. Virtual events or hybrid models are at the strategic center for more than a third of the respondents. 

Source: How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic

“While virtual events produce less revenue than live events, they’re more profitable—and actually offer enhancements in lead-generation capability,” comments Silber.

Membership models are also a priority for 2021. Nearly all the interviewees with significant subscription businesses are advocates for paid content. “A subscription-revenue stream is always going to be better as a recurring stream than advertising,” one of the executives said. 

Most of the publishers in the study are also actively engaged in portfolio management and are looking at acquisitions. Broadly, they are looking at growth through acquisitions and internal product launches. “There are whitespace growth opportunities around our businesses,” said a B2B CEO. They are also working at achieving efficiencies and eliminating what’s not working.  

Source: How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic

Nearly all of the respondents are optimistic about the future. “They all believe they’re playing a vital role in their served markets. And they all believe they will continue to leverage that role into monetization,” says Silber.

We’re going full throttle. We have new talent, new capabilities, new capital, and new tech solutions. There was no transformation needed. We had the right model for these times.

One of the interviewees, a CEO

The full report is available here:
How media companies are adapting and finding success in a time of pandemic