National World Plc, David Montgomery’s investment vehicle founded in 2019, will buy JPI Media for £10.2 million, a tiny 1.7x EBITDA.

Disposals by JPI Media shifted its operating model towards digital, National World will shift this further.

This acquisition kicks off what is likely to be a busy period for M&A, though local consolidation remains hindered by the local media mergers regime.

The plunge in the UK economy in Q2 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown reduced advertising expenditure by close to one-third, recovering in Q3.

Impaired mobility of consumers dramatically reduced expenditure on print and out-of-home media, which are reliant on footfall, alongside cinema, whose theatres have been shuttered on and off all year.

The paradigm shift in consumer expenditure to ecommerce in 2020, which will moderate in 2021 as mobility partly returns, boosted online display while search was flat due to impeded travel plans.

On 1 October, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced $1 billion for worldwide news publisher partnerships for a novel News Showcase product, helping them to distribute their content to a new audience.

It is an important milestone: for the first time Google will pay publishers to curate content in the Google News app (initially), and to provide unpaywalled access to articles on publishers’ websites that users can click through to.

In so doing, Google is defusing the simmering conflict with publishers in major markets, and showing policy-makers its willingness to collaborate with a news industry facing existential threats.

 

Journalism is on the precipice with more than £1 billion likely to fall off the industry’s topline. Several years of projected structural revenue decline in advertising and circulation have occurred in just the past few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, with no letup in sight.

The UK’s rich heritage of independent journalism is at risk, with responses by Government and ‘big tech’ multinationals welcomed but ultimately inadequate. We make two further recommendations for engagement in this report.

Journalism enterprises from the small, local and specialist outfits through to national household brands will either fail or remain on a path to future failure.

In response to COVID-19 and the associated lockdown and economic crash, advertisers have slashed budgets. Online budgets are not immune.

This has clarified features of the online ad market: it is demand-driven, relies heavily on SMEs and startups, and is built on direct response campaigns.

We expect online advertising to outperform other media, and for platforms to further gain share. But with a very few exceptions, this health and economic disaster is good for nobody.

COVID-19 has sent online news surging, with publishers experiencing massive traffic uplift, as trusted news sources become increasingly important.

But the industry is still heavily reliant on print revenues, and we are seeing supply chains come under extreme pressure as core readers self-isolate and retail giants close or de-prioritise news media. Advertising—including categories like retail and travel—has collapsed.

In face of existential threats to the sector, we have written to DCMS to mobilise Government funding to sustain news provision and journalism.

Low-priced quality tabloid the i has been bought by DMGT for £49.6m, a 4.5x multiple on historical operating profit. The sale provides a lifeline to JPI Media as Reach has withdrawn from negotiations for the local estate

The i signals growing confidence in consumer media at DMGT after a long period rebalancing the portfolio towards B2B, and new ownership serves as an opportunity to rethink and drive the i’s online service

Although the acquisition will be reviewed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), we expect the deal to pass

With elections in the UK in December, and in the US in 2020, online political advertising is receiving intense scrutiny. Google has announced limits on targeting, while Twitter has banned politicians from buying ads

Facebook is the big player in online political ads, and it continues to allow targeted political ads, and to carve them out as exempt from fact-checking

Facebook wants to keep Republicans on side and surf the revenue opportunity, but pressure will increase with US elections, and we expect Facebook to bring in restrictions

The local press is in an existential crisis: relentless decline in revenues since 2004 has rebased the scale of the sector, but there is little if any consensus about what to do next, despite broad agreement that the implications for democracy are deeply troubling

Incumbents have focused on incremental innovation with limited success, and have failed to adapt their digital strategies from those created 20 years ago, despite overwhelming evidence that they do not work, and never will

We argue for radical innovation, switching the industry’s focus from advertising to communities, building new use-cases while also sustaining print media for as along as possible, both to buy time but also to develop a multimedia roadmap for utility, entertainment and public good services

Mindful of the uncertain future effects of ongoing events, most notably the stagnating TV ad market and the costs of establishing an HQ in Leeds, Channel 4 returned a £5 million pre-tax surplus in 2018, which after investment in Box left its cash reserves at £180 million

Increased digital revenue more than made up for the anticipated drop in spot advertising and sponsorship (with group viewing share and SOCI down) while cautiousness necessitated lower content spend (down 5% from the peak in 2016); a concern given rising content costs

Nevertheless, Channel 4 is doing a good job delivering its remit in a tough environment, continuing to broadcast programming no-one else would and leveraging long-standing relationships to nurture television and film of a quality and ingenuity that belies the modest size of the organisation