Why Media Companies Need to Invest in a Digital-First Mindset

posted by Daniil Tarakanov on 11.08.2020

The coronavirus pandemic has placed many industries on the backfoot, requiring them to completely change their operations, budgeting and marketing strategies almost overnight. With the impending threat of a second wave and possible further lockdowns, it appears that things will get worse before they get better.

Media companies are amongst those that have been most significantly impacted. Every element of the supply chain has been completely disrupted–from printing the magazine to distributing it around the country and finally retailing it in shops. As a result, many media companies have been forced to either dramatically scale back production, put operations indefinitely on pause or close down the entire show altogether.

Shifting Fortunes are Part of a Bigger Problem

Although the pandemic has had a drastic impact on publishing–it’s certainly not the root cause for the decline. The digital landscape has been dwarfing the traditional media companies now, for over two decades. 

According to Enders Analysis, annual magazine sales in the UK have dropped over 60% from £1.2 billion in 2005 to £481 million in 2018. And by 2021, magazine advertising revenue is predicted to be less than half what it was in 2011 down from £1.22 billion to £530 million. At the same time, online advertising revenues in the UK have skyrocketed from £200 million in 2002 to nearly £13.5 billion in 2018. That is an increase of over 6,500% in 15 years. 

Media companies have long been making a transition towards digital, only for those that haven’t, this time it may soon be too late.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many traditional media companies are facing a moment of reckoning. With big names like Kerrang!, The Telegraph and The Financial Times facing significant cutbacks and furloughs and a few like Q magazine considering closure– change is in the air.

Many readers have now begun searching for digital editions of their favourite publications. Another BlueToad survey found that in February, digital readership was over 75% of the respondents. In other words, the already popular trend for digital magazines was already popular, but now it’s soaring. 

So how do you solve this tricky puzzle? How do you identify new opportunities whilst your print publication is experiencing dwindling readership, subscriptions and advertising revenue?

How the Best Media Companies are Adapting to the Digital World

Leading publications are paying close attention to their digital presence. They are offering much more than online editions of their print magazines and newspapers. They are creating digital-exclusive stories, carefully curating their social media accounts and investing in interactive marketplaces.

For example, the women’s lifestyle magazine Cosmopolitan has seen a significant rise in eCommerce revenue generated from its online store over the past few years. The printed magazine has always recommended its favourite beauty products but now they are taking the extra step of offering a convenient place to buy it online. This approach not only provides a new opportunity for the magazine to earn advertising revenue from sponsors and affiliate links–it also gives customers a greater opportunity to engage with the brand.

The Guardian’s job recruitment section is another great example. Initially a popular offline aspect of the publication, they’ve developed an online version which allows readers to easily find like-minded employers and for companies to get their job postings seen. Currently, it features over 5,000 job postings and serves as a great feature to reinforce its brand as a prominent community hub.

And prior to the pandemic, a particularly successful digital feature was from TimeOut London. As a publication that’s devoted to promoting the best London has to offer, their venue hiring service attracted both readers and advertisers. For customers, it provides a much easier way to browse the perfect venue for an event. For local companies, it offers an opportunity to increase business interest and land more clients. And for TimeOut, it provides a valuable source of advertising revenue.

Instances like this provide a clear reminder that if media companies are going to ensure future success, it’s essential they adopt a digital-first mindset and take advantage of these new opportunities. Many media companies already have enormous trust from their readership and it’s just a case of continuing to find innovative digital solutions that build on this brand loyalty.

The future of print magazines is still uncertain, but the probability of these publications continuing to thrive through online content and digital products is still strong. The brands that consistently push the boundaries of traditional media and embrace a highly personalised and convenient digital experience will be the ones that flourish in the future.

levels.digital is a full-service design and technology agency that specialises in creating innovative solutions which bridge the gap between traditional media and digital. If you think we can help your business, please contact Daniil Tarakanov, our Founder at daniil@levels.digital.

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