We have seen some major shifts in the mainstream media and publishing over the last couple of years. On a positive side, readers and customers have a larger number of outlets and news channels than ever to choose from, with a lot of niche publications managing to attract large readerships. On the flip side, the internet and social media were attributed to exacerbating low trust towards the mainstream media and spreading ‘fake news’. CNN being the main culprit. Echo chambers, filter bubbles, and data breach scandals are undoubtedly real and on the rise, reported Reuters Institute in 2017.
State of Media and Publishing
However, it’s not all bad news. The same report noted: “Though the economic outlook for most media companies remains extremely difficult, not all the indicators are getting worse. The growth of ad-blocking has stopped while online subscriptions and donations are picking up in some countries. Our focus groups provide some encouragement that more might be prepared to pay in the future if the content is sufficiently valuable, convenient, and relevant.”
“Growth in social media for news is flattening out in some markets, as messaging apps that are more private and tend not to filter content algorithmically are becoming more popular. -Bye-bye Facebook’s monopoly. The use of WhatsApp for news is starting to rival Facebook in a number of markets including Malaysia (51%), Brazil (46%), and Spain (32%).”
In terms of online news subscriptions, Reuters Institute is reporting a very substantial ‘Trump bump’ in the US (from 9 to 16%) along with a tripling of news donations. Most of those new payments have come from the young – a powerful corrective to the idea that young people are not prepared to pay for online media, let alone news. Still, across all countries, only around one in ten (13%) pay for online news.
UK Publishers seek to cut costs and increase collaboration
As to the UK news publishers, they are pursuing a combination of radical cost-saving and increased collaboration in the face of steep declines in print advertising revenues. Overall, print ad spending fell by 13% in 2016, according to Enders Analysis, with Facebook and Google being the main beneficiaries of the move to online. Partly as a result of these trends the Guardian newspaper, which has lost over £100m in the last two years, shed 250 jobs in the UK and has cut its US staff. At the same time, it is considering moving to a tabloid format to save printing costs and announced a content-sharing deal with Vice which will see the work of Guardian journalists air on nightly news programmes in the US and UK. OK, so Vice is hardly mainstream. We’ll see how that pans out.
A number of publishers are pursuing diversified revenue streams including membership, paid content, e-commerce, and events. The Financial Times has around 750,000 paid subscribers, of whom 550,000 subscribe to a digital platform, while The Times has around 200,000 digital subscribers paying £6 a week. Perhaps the most unlikely success of the year came with the launch of a pop-up printed newspaper, the New European, which made modest profits for its publisher Archant.
Revenue-generating for publishers
We have already mentioned the paid subscriptions and paywalls as streams of revenue. In our previous article, we covered native advertising and on-site ads. But there are, of course, more. For example, The Daily Mail tops their revenues with referral sales while Telegraph and Guardian sell courses and host job boards. Same goes for Business of Fashion who host a niche job board.
Other publishers discovering new opportunities for expansion are Conde Nast who announced the launch of the ‘Influencer’ Platform and Ikon London Magazine with their recently launched Made in Britain Directory.
“I don’t think that painting everything as superb and exciting as bloggers tend to do is the way to go for publishers who want to remain credible,”
Niche publishers and niche services
The benefits of niche publishers can’t be underestimated. They attract invested and interested readers who will likely benefit from the additional services. Thus, the advertisers may expect a greater return on investment. In order to stay relevant to the reader and the advertiser, publishers must know their readers on an individual level and that’s what niche publishers are generally great at – knowing their readership and establishing the dialogue.
Building upon this strength would be beneficial for publishers. At the moment, this potential is still largely untapped. We spoke to the founder and Editor in Chief of Ikon London Magazine, Joe Alvarez, about the state of publishing and creating own opportunities.
Ikon London Magazine is an online publication founded by celebrity photographer and journalist of many years. Founded in late 2012, the publication is – as one might have guessed – picture-driven and celebrity-heavy. The magazine has a good portion of film-related news including premieres, festivals, and awards. Joe Alvarez’s passion for celebrity photography is aptly reflected in his brainchild. The online publication features both exclusive photo shoots and interviews with celebrities but also with entrepreneurs and British entrepreneurs in particular.
“I regularly attend various press launches and meet many entrepreneurs who chose to throw away their ’safe’ 9-5 jobs and set up businesses in Britain. They are both excited about their products and always keen to learn more,” commented the founder of Ikon London Magazine Made in Britain directory Joe Alvarez. “They threw their safety net away and I know how it feels.
“We feature a lot of British success stories in Ikon London Magazine as we aim to encourage others to pursue their aspirations,” added the publisher.
Quality of content as a priority
“Now, some magazines and newspapers are sounding like overexcited bloggers at the silliest of things. Professionalism out of the window. And readers can see through that; they get tired of endless advertorials.”
Despite being committed to reporting on British success stories, Ikon London Magazine prioritizes the quality of content: “I don’t think that painting everything as superb and exciting as bloggers tend to do is the way to go for publishers who want to remain credible,” said Mr Alvarez.
“I believe this trend was largely started by uneducated bloggers not familiar with journalistic ethics. In their reviews of every product, event, speaker or PR company its always ‘great’ or ‘fantastic’, the best they’ve ever seen or met. These highly inexperienced bloggers are so grateful to be taken ‘seriously’ by PR companies that they praise products just by the looks of them. The PR companies know how easy it is to get a great review from them. It results in PR and marketing companies turning their focus away from reputable publications who are bound by law to provide true and impartial coverage and seeking for more yes-people to collaborate with. A total sham for consumers.
“As a result, a lot of publishers decided to turn a blind eye on the quality of their reporting in exchange for advertising budgets. The interview with British Vogue’s ex-editor Lucinda Chambers is just one example. Now, some magazines and newspapers are sounding like overexcited bloggers at the silliest of things. Professionalism out of the window. And readers can see through that; they get tired of endless advertorials.”
Mr Alvarez believes that this created a demand for smaller publications – both printed and online – that hold on to their integrity.
“The Made in Britain directory is the topic close to my heart. Brexit or not, Britain will continue producing iconic products, new ideas and expanding into new fields. Knowing this, even foreign brands like Taittinger, Toyota, Nissan and many more are still investing in Britain,” commented Joe Alvarez. “We publish British success stories but also the real challenges businesses face on their journey. We are getting great feedback from both readers and British businesses and we decided to build on that strength.”
Being close to the audience is imperative in exploring new opportunities and expand on interesting content that readers like without compromising on the value of the content and readers experience.
Sharing the expertise
“The more ethical and conscientious PR’s out there who know what they are doing, the easier is the work of a publisher. It’s a win-win.”
Publishers’ knowledge is not something that is disclosed readily. Marketing efforts and findings of researchers are used mainly internally and are privy to the eyes of the management.
“I realized a while ago, that brands and marketing pros value highly the publisher’s advise and insight,” admits Alvarez. “Through my career, I have advised on, planned, overseen and executed numerous marketing campaigns. Then there are talent managers and entrepreneurial friends who were often asking for an advice.”
This demand, admits Joe, prompted him to launch one-to-one Media Bootcamp as a side business. “We train PR’s, brand owners, talent managers and alike and I am happy to share with them what I know about how to fine-tune their story and make it noticed without having to rely blindly on inexperienced bloggers with faux followers. The more ethical and conscientious PR’s out there who know what they are doing, the easier is the work of a publisher. It’s a win-win.”