This special episode includes the audio of our launch presentation for the Media Moments 2020 report. Esther, Peter and Chris examine one key stat of each section within the report, from diversity and advertising to platforms, trust and more.

In the second half of the episode the team is joined by a panel featuring Jemima Villanueva, Executive Director, EMEA at The Atlantic, Aly Nurmohamed, General Manager of Permutive, and Andrea Barbalich, Editor in Chief of The Week Junior US.

You can download the full report here. Here are nine of our highlights:

1: UK newspaper sales were down -40% at their worst point during lockdown

Covid-19 crushed newsstand sales and advertising revenues for many newspapers and magazines, but caused a spike in subscription revenues for others, and drove real innovation in some businesses. But as heroic as some performances were, survival might come down to who has the biggest cash reserves.

2: Despite the pandemic, UK podcast ad spend is forecast to rise 14.7% over the course of 2020

Without the commute, the worry was that podcast revenue would slip. But podcasting has been hardy enough to weather the storm, with over 130,000 new shows added to Apple Podcasts in June – the highest amount ever. Now, with eyes turning to the opportunities around engaged listeners, everyone’s trying to cash in on this growing audience.

3: 45% of ads were blocked from appearing on The Washington Post in March through one ad software company, due to Covid-19 keyword blocking

As the pandemic took hold, advertisers rushed to add Covid-19-related keywords to their blocklists, seeing it as ‘brand unsafe’. By February, ‘coronavirus’ had become the second most common word on blocklists for news publishers, with the most common being ‘Trump’. Ad verification agency Integral Ad Science had over 3,000 advertisers blocking the term, resulting in 45% of ads from the agency being prevented from appearing on The Washington Post in March.

4: Condé Nast UK saw 420% YoY growth in new subscriptions during the pandemic

Reader revenues have been top of publishers’ commercial agendas for a few years now, and 2020 has really driven home why. As publishers overly reliant on advertising revenues stuttered, those with robust reader revenue bases have thrived. Condé Nast isn’t an anomaly; Hearst’s new subscriber acquisitions have doubled year-on-year, Immediate Media has reported subscription increases of 300%, and at the end of April, Bauer saw the number of new subscriptions purchased online up over 160% compared with 2019.

5: Despite publishers proving themselves to be on the public’s side this year, only 38% of people say they trust news overall

2020 saw the logical conclusion of trends that have been ongoing over the past few years; the denigration of the press by both the left and right, rising public awareness of malicious disinformation on social media, and accusations of bias all round. Although people still have high levels of trust for the news outlets with which they feel affinity, fully one quarter of women and 18% of men are now actively avoiding any news about the pandemic.

6: 3 in 4 of the 52,000 attendees of the FT’s virtual Global Boardroom event were previously unknown to the publisher

Whether it’s been virtual events on Facebook Live or exclusive Q&A sessions via Zoom, we’ve read so many stories of real innovation in the events space this year as revenues from physical gatherings were decimated. The Financial Times is one example; they put on a virtual Global Boardroom event in just a few weeks which ended up attracting 52,000 attendees. Tickets were free, but crucially 3 in 4 of those attendees were previously unknown to the publisher. That data is now fuelling its subscription marketing funnels, bringing in long term value beyond the event.

7: By September, there were 106+ magazine covers featuring Black people or BLM messaging

The Black Lives Matter movement shot to international prominence in 2020, with the upswell of support focusing attention on media organisations themselves as much as anywhere else. By September, Samir ‘Mr Magazine’ Husni had been able to collect 106 magazines featuring Black people or expressing BLM support. A magazine cover doesn’t mean the world has changed, but they are reflective of an industry fundamentally reconsidering how it works.

8: Google has promised to pay more than $1 billion in licensing content from publishers over the next 3 years

In June, Google said they would create a licensing program to pay publishers for high quality content as part of their new news product, Google News Showcase. This will pay out $1 billion over the next three years. As part of this pledge, Google has also offered to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on publisher’s sites to help them grow their audiences. The extra support for publishers is great, but there are concerns over the longevity and fairness of the licensing system, especially as governments worldwide threaten Google and Facebook with regulation.

9: Axios now gets 50% of its total revenue from newsletters

Just as 2020 accelerated trends around ecommerce and audience consumption habits, 2021 will accelerate trends around monetisation that emerged over the course of this year. New and lucrative touchpoints with audiences are appearing all the time. Axios is one of the key beneficiaries of the newsletter boom, but so are individual journalists. More than anything else, we expect that 2021 will see some wild experimentation as we adjust to a post-Covid world.

From The Week Junior US’s lockdown launch to The Atlantic’s subscription boom, our panel discussed what they have done to weather Covid-19 this year and what opportunities they’re looking to in 2021. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Our first issue shipped to the printer on March 17th. You all know what that week was like! We did it, we kept our promise to help the children of America make sense of the world at a very confusing time. That turned out to be incredible timing for us. We were coming into homes at the precise moment when everyone was at home.

We were able to create a very deep connection with our readers very quickly because of that. And we’ve seen tremendous growth and success throughout the year.

Andrea Barbalich, The Week Junior

Because of what was going on with Covid, we’ve definitely seen the urgency, or that momentum of urgency [with third party cookies] having a dip, but then really build throughout the year. But the biggest change that we saw was from the advertisers actually. Whereas this was a story that publishers got, they understood over the last couple of years, getting the buy side or advertisers to come along that journey was the challenge then.

What we’ve seen this year – and I don’t know if it’s because advertisers have been spending less money – is we’ve seen advertisers really coming to the fore and demanding – or really investing in – finding new solutions. Acknowledging that the old way of working doesn’t matter any more, and they need to find things that are different, and not just evolving the way that it used to work.

Aly Nurmohamed, Permutive

One of the positives to come from the virtual situation has been the erosion of geographical boundaries to a certain extent, and it becoming very evident that The Atlantic’s voice is resonating around the world more than it ever has. And in a way, The Atlantic was built for moments like this.

In terms of advertising, there’s definitely been a bounce back…towards the end of the year, there’s been a bit of a mad rush from luxury goods advertisers trying to get into Q4. But I think even more exciting than that is the opportunities that are opening up for more unconventional partnerships. We’ve also found ourselves having more ‘values based’ conversations with our business partners outside the traditional media and advertising cycles.

Jemima Villanueva, The Atlantic

There’s not a single advertiser that I’ve spoken to who wants to be fully reliant on the big platforms. They don’t want to be spending all their money with Facebook and Google; they want the independent publisher web ecosystem to work. So there’s definitely a desire there, which is the first positive.

And then the second one is, publishers do have really rich first party data themselves. Now it’s about figuring out how to use it – they have all the pieces of the puzzle, and they need to start putting it together.

Aly Nurmohamed, Permutive

Coronavirus has certainly thrown up some new opportunities for us. We’ll definitely be thinking about the role that our events business can play going forwards. We can have visitors from all over the world – at our flagship four day event, The Atlantic Festival, we had visitors from over 142 countries attend. While that only represents 25% of our viewers, it’s still a really significant growth opportunity for 2021.

Jemima Villanueva, The Atlantic

We are very optimistic about 2021. What we’ve seen so far is that our renewals are exceeding expectations, and one of the most incredible statistics that we’ve seen is that we have an 85% pay-up rate after the six week trial. So this is a sign to us that children and their parents are seeing the value, and are seeing a superb product.

Our focus is really on maintaining our quality, deepening our engagement with our readers and their families, and continuing to do what we’ve seen has been working well for us so far.

Andrea Barbalich, The Week Junior

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