Seven trends in the American media & publishing industry

Aexus helps innovative tech companies become successful. We act as the local sales partner for companies that want to penetrate Europe and the US. Media and publishing have always been key segments. Despite the fact that the implications of the Corona crisis are yet to be fully understood, they will undoubtedly also affect the American media and publishing sector. Still, because it is in a state of constant and rapid development, there are myriad new technological opportunities that the vendors of new and innovative technologies and solutions can take advantage of. We have identified the following interesting trends.

Searching for viewers

Although media behemoth Disney launched its streaming service, Disney+, at the end of last year already, 2020 will be the year in which the so-called streaming wars will reach a boiling point. Besides Disney+, established streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu will see an increase in competition from players like Quibi, Peacock and HBO Max, to name a few. American viewers are going to choose one, maybe two, out of this comprehensive offering. It means all providers are going to have to fight and keep fighting for viewers. Which means finding out what types of content viewers are likely to pay for. Viewer data is an important source of information in this process. Providers will have to find ways to gather this data and subsequently use AI and machine learning solutions to perform the analysis. In the search for viewers, every bit of support helps.

New business models

During the past ten years, the number of traditional media subscribers has been shrinking drastically. Several newspapers and magazines have been experimenting with paywalls, constantly changing the number of free articles someone gets before they need to open their wallet. Other publications offer their content completely free of charge, but are asking readers for donations. Long story short: there is not a single, proven method. Moreover, the percentage of Americans paying for news has been stuck at 16 since 2017. And most readers only pay for one or two subscriptions: they show signs of subscription fatigue. News organizations are facing the same challenge as (some) streaming services: how to tempt readers to pay? Unique, special content is an option. We also see organizations presenting themselves as brands rather than “just a media company.” They could, for example, run and curate their own webshop, organize events, or offer digital courses. Still, many of them do not possess the required know-how and/or technology yet.

New advertising models

It is vital for important media companies to let go of traditional advertising models. Research by the Reuters Institute shows that digital media are aiming for more subscriptions (52%) instead of advertising (35%). It does not mean advertising is not an option anymore, but something has to change. In print, but also on television: people are watching less linear television and are turning to the aforementioned streaming services. Most of them do not rely on advertising – yet. This is likely to change this year, and although viewers will not like it, history shows us that this dissatisfaction will blow over (as long as viewers have enough reasons to keep watching or scrolling). The advantage of advertisements on a streaming service is that these can be personalized based on individual viewing habits, something that print media cannot offer. However, as a result of strict guidelines, advertisers need to do more with less personal data. More interactive content, inviting users to share more about themselves with publishers on their own volition, could be the solution.

Mobile is more important than ever

The US has always been a television nation first and foremost, but this changed last year. In 2019, American consumers spent more time on mobile screens. Of course, those have been steadily gaining on television screens for a long time; since 2010, no other platform has been growing in advertising revenue as well as time spent by users. However, this growth was at the expense of print, radio, television and desktop media. As a result, media companies want to do everything they can to have a good mobile presence. This obviously means more than having a responsive website that looks good on the small screen. Form is important: while it does not have to be fancy, more and more users prefer a fast and “clean” experience.

The right kind of content

But content needs to be taken into account as well. Mobile media consumption happens on the go and requires other forms of storytelling. The ‘story’, initially introduced by Snapchat and copied by many other platforms, is a perfect example: it disappears after 24 hours and tells a story in about 20 seconds. On the other hand, it does not have to be short: research shows many parties (45.5% of publishers) believe that long-form, longer content, will yield more return on investment. But whether the content is long or short, in the end many media parties require tools to produce it. Sometimes they have the required funds, but not the agility that is necessary to make the switch. Or when they possess the required know-how and flexibility, they lack funds.

Podcasts are still becoming more popular

A specific type of long-form that has exploded in popularity, are podcasts. In November 2019, market research firm Forrester predicted that the podcast market will be valued at more than one billion dollar this year. More than 90 million Americans are listening to one or more podcasts every month. This attraction is easy to explain; listeners are enjoying radio on-demand, about subjects that interest them. At the same time, producers don’t have to think about time or frequency limitations. Because of the large number of listeners, there are a lot of advertising dollars in podcasts: more than 479 dollars in 2018, and this number has only grown since. Many media companies, from very large to very small, are looking for solutions that support creation, distribution and a smart way to sell advertising space in podcasts.

SEO is still important

Search Engine Optimalization (SEO) has been a trend for years, and 2020 is no different – because media companies are focusing on content consumers are searching for. Numbers from 2019 prove this makes sense: 20 per cent of American consumers sought and found their news using a search engine, making it the third most popular way to look for news. However, SEO is not easy. It can be complex; rules and algorithms are changing all the time. And when content is purely created for SEO purposes, consumers will almost immediately notice. It is important content producers are trained in so-called SEO-first content: focusing on quality and placement on a website, instead of being only about keywords. Google is getting better and better at searching through and reviewing websites.

Topics: Strategy