Opportunities & Threats: National News Media

Looking at the outlook for the national press in 2020, the issue of trust looms large, writes Ray Snoddy.

By Ray Snoddy

Opportunities & Threats: National News Media

Given the difficulties of recent years, it seems a crazy thing to say, but a remarkable window of opportunity has opened up for publishers if they have the wit to seize it.

The hope has always been that, in time, the trust in properly produced journalism would begin to be valued more than the random outpourings of social media and the realisation would dawn that the overall reach of traditional publishers is as great and sometimes greater than that of the tech giants.

Now there are serious numbers to back up both claims.

The reach numbers are the most impressive of all – according to PAMCo, the industry research body, in the UK, no less than 48 million people a month read news from traditional publishers across print and digital on all devices.

By now, that number has probably breeched the 50 million mark putting traditional news brands ahead of Facebook and Google.

Meanwhile, Newsworks research shows that 69 per cent of people trust their chosen news brand while trust in social media bumps along at around 29 per cent.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows that trust in established news brands grew from 48 per cent in 2017 to 60 per cent in 2019.

For good measure, the Advertising Association believes that trust in advertising has fallen from 50 per cent to a current low of 25 per cent.

Trust multiplied by reach has to add up to a business opportunity when you have the numbers to prove it.

The real opportunity – more of a challenge really – is how to claw back some of the digital advertising revenue, almost certainly more than £1 billion, that has been lost to the tech giants in recent years.

How can it be done? The publishing industry has to be united in pushing out the trust and reach argument as much to advertisers as those who place their ads, sometimes almost casually in social media where they can easily rub shoulders with some very unsavoury company.

They must stay true to print editions, not least for the remarkable dwell times produced and the superior revenue print editions still generate.

But it is the overall and growing reach of news brands which must be promoted whether the consumption is on desktops or smartphones and the industry really has to fight its way past the negative vibes of mainly declining print sales.

To seize this opportunity, where trust and reach numbers are going their way, publishers must set aside traditional rivalries and combine to collectively promote what actually is a vibrant medium.

The greatest threat they face is to continue to behave in the way they have always done, ignoring the full impact of the greatest transformation the publishing industry has faced in generations.

Trust multiplied by reach has to add up to a business opportunity when you have the numbers to prove it.

This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide 2020, which was distributed with the January / February issue of InPublishing magazine.