Every January, Nic Newman publishes his annual report of journalism, media and technology trends and predictions for the coming year. Nic Newman is Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, where he has been lead author of the annual Digital News Report since 2012. As such, his annual report is an invaluable tool for digital publishers, marketers and editors alike. Here’s our roundup of its key revelations for 2020.
As in 2019, publishers are putting faith in reader revenue in 2020 – that is, revenue driven by readers through paid strategies like the paywall. 50% of publishers expect it to provide the majority of their revenues in 2020. A third expect this approach to be on par with advertising in terms of importance, and very few will attempt to profit off solely advertising. Jon Slade, Financial Times’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Growth engines, reader revenue specifically, has very positive prospects; advertising revenue remains a major concern.”
The positivity towards reader revenue extends beyond international publishers to smaller publications who are enjoying successes with their first forays into subscription models. But, as this approach circulates wider, competition for the finite amount of users willing to pay for content will likely become a challenge. “Churn rates are likely to become an increasing worry for those that can’t prove consistent value to audiences,” warns Newman. Also, the disappearance of quality journalism behind paywalls has obvious democratic implications that publishers should be wary of.
A digital leaders’ survey conducted by Reuters revealed that publishers favour Google and Twitter over Apple, Snapchat, Amazon and Facebook when it comes to initiatives to support journalism. Facebook, it seems, is still experiencing fallout from publishers over the early-2018 introduction of the ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm that saw publisher content sidelined in news feeds.
Publishers aren’t naive about the unlikelihood of lawmakers fighting their corner and defending the sanctity of unbiased reportage. The controversial EU directive “the link tax”, which decrees that anyone “using snippets of journalistic online content must first get a license from the publisher”, is not being regarded as the saving grace that European lawmakers hoped it would be.
Elsewhere, 2020 looks set to be another serious year for podcasting. Half of the publisher respondents to Reuters’ survey claim they’ll push various podcast-focused initiatives throughout 2020. Not least because podcasting revenue is expected to grow by roughly 30% to reach over $1bn in the US. In 2020, expect the proliferation of podcasting beyond the English language.Much of the action so far has been confined to the US and a handful of English-speaking countries, but this is set to change.
All in all, 2020 looks to be a year in which journalism finds a firmer footing, and begins to regain some confidence in itself thanks to new business models with a serious potential for longevity. In spite of some legislative obstacles, the overall mood is one of optimism. Here’s how Nic Newman articulated the feeling for 2020:
“…the overwhelming mood from this year’s survey is one of quiet determination not to be distracted by the latest innovations but to focus on delivering long-term value for audiences. There is no one path to success – and there will be many publishers that do not make it – but there is greater confidence now that good journalism can continue to flourish in a digital age.”
Head here for a summary of, and download link to, Newman’s full report.