It is no secret that Covid-19 has all but obliterated plans, strategies and visions for growth that industry had envisioned for themselves. A veritable demonstration of Murphy’s Law! Let’s look at the media and news industry, where the impact has been felt with almost exacting precision.
The industry was already witnessing a paradigm shift in terms of consumption patterns and medium owing to the ever-changing technological advancements and changing demographics of its consumers. This was further accelerated by the pandemic which impacted revenues of an already flailing industry. Media houses and publications reacted with major cost cuts and one of the biggest impact was felt by journalists across the board and job cuts became the order of the day.
One of the major developments, as a result of all of this, was the way news and content across media has started to be consumed and showcased. News reporting formats, edit calendars and diktats have changed, journalist mandates have changed and the focus of news has taken a turn that will, forever, define the news reporting and consumption in the years to come. With a focus on revenue and sustenance, media houses have now come to depend on more than just advertising and space revenue and have included the advertorial/paid route for editorial as well. Now this is slowly becoming an integral part of communication, corporate or otherwise.
Corporate communications teams and public relations professionals have always been aware of the importance and reality of paid and earned media. However, there is a growing need for a more acute understanding of how this will impact their businesses and that of their clients. There are some interesting insights which indicate that all is not doom and gloom in this space. Let us have a look:
Digital shift and new demographics:
1. According to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), the overall readership of newspapers had grown from 407 million readers in 2017 to 425 million readers at the end of the first quarter of 2019.
2. According to the data available, more than half of the world’s adult literate population reads a newspaper — more than 2.5-billion in physical form and more than 600-million in digital form, which happens to be more than the global users of internet.
3. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism surveyed English-speaking Indians with internet access earlier this year, 38 per cent of those over 35 identified online media as their main source of news, compared to 27 per cent who identified print.
How do digital content companies come into play?
There are increasing signs of several governments asking the tech giants such as Facebook and Google to compensate traditional media companies for using their content. It will be the first time that major digital platforms would be required to pay for news anywhere. Australia announced that it will begin forcing Google and Facebook to pay news companies for content, in a landmark move aimed at shielding traditional media from the tech giants’ digital dominance. Syndication and revenue sharing with these companies has the potential for significant revenue generation for traditional media companies, notwithstanding sharing revenues generated from advertising and paid content on their sites.
So how does it impact communication strategies?
These scenarios augur well for the traditional PR and communication consultancies, where the outcomes can still be significant for their clients while retaining the core communication precepts and adapting to a new age platform. Content would retain its premium positioning in the media and brand communications. Product and service offerings can be an amalgam of both paid and earned media. A close intermeshing with the digital communication strategy would be of paramount importance and an evolved model of PR strategies would now take hold and have precedence.
A strategic approach to the overall brand and organisational communication would need the coming together of PR, digital and media to craft a plan that has specific outcomes that will be addressed by various forms of output and media. This would also fit into the revised business models and editorial strategies of various media houses and be a win-win for all concerned.
So while there seems to be an obvious negative impact on the overall media and news industry, these multiple permutations and combinations could very well be the panacea that would ensure an uptick or even just a reversal of fortunes in the immediate future that could augur well for all.
The author is executive director, Concept PR