The Guardian has posted a stellar set of results: its highest annual revenues since the 2008 financial crash, and a £22.7 million upswing in operating cashflows, putting it into positive territory for the first time in decades

Looking ahead to 2022/23, the Guardian (alongside every other news publisher) faces the twin headwinds of the cost-of-living crisis and news fatigue

There are levers for the Guardian to pull to maintain growth, increase monetisation, and minimise churn

Apple's News and News+ service to iOS users in the UK, US, Canada and Australia has attracted many ad-funded and paywalled news publishers since its launch in 2015

Publishers’ 'opt-in' to its walled garden environment to reach underserved demographics on their own sites and raise brand awareness, and more recently, take advantage of the reduced commission on subscriptions sold through the App Store, with Apple taking 15% instead of 30%

For Apple, the priority is to improve the user experience, ultimately driving sales of iOS devices, although its engagement with news is only a minor source of revenue compared to games. We regard Apple News as being mainly a device to buttress its reputation in those selected markets where it faces political and regulatory pressures, explaining its limited geographic roll-out

Some prominent news media—notably the Financial Times, Guardian and New York Times—generate most of their consumer revenue online, shining a light on the industry’s long-term sustainability

Many newsbrands are also moving towards two-thirds reader funding, one-third advertising, emphasising that their business, not just their operating purpose, is journalism; where relevant, the legacy of the advertising boom period (1980s to mid 2000s) is finally shaking off

Perhaps most importantly, an extraordinary decade of transformation has instilled executive and cultural confidence at the top end of the market. Realising the same outcome for popular, local and magazine media will require even more radical transformation—but positive  signals are emerging

On 12 May 2022, Enders Analysis co-hosted the annual Media and Telecoms 2022 & Beyond conference with Deloitte, sponsored by Barclays, Financial Times, Meta, and Deloitte Legal

With up to 500 attendees and over 40 speakers from the TMT sectors, including leading executives, policy leaders, and industry experts, the conference focused on regulation, infrastructure, and how new technologies will impact the future of the sector 

These are edited transcripts of Sessions 9 and 10 covering: the Metaverse, Authority in the Digital Age for publishers and closing remarks. Videos of the presentations are also available on the conference website

The UK's cultural industries remain the strongest in Europe and digital distribution is a strong vector for the globalisation of British culture

The international reach and reputation of UK news providers is unparalleled, with the BBC, the largest news provider globally, reaching half a billion users weekly

Independent commissioning drives a dynamic ecosystem of TV exports with global clout—worth an estimated £3.4 billion—that remains stable despite Brexit

The Times and the Sunday Times have posted a record operating profit of £44.7 million, the highest (in nominal terms) since 1990, doubling a strong 2020

All the Times’ online metrics are going in the right direction, partly reflecting a favourable news agenda, but also a renewed energy, imagination and working rhythm galvanised by a new team and structure                                            

Reader economies are gathering momentum, at least among the quality press, and there are also hopeful signals among local and magazine media. Signs of reader subscription fatigue are supply-side rather than demand-driven—publishers should double down on their mission and purpose

Seven years after the launch of its membership initiative, The Guardian has reached one million digital-only subscriptions

Not coincidentally, longer-term financial sustainability looks within reach, as The Guardian posted an adjusted operating profit of £3.1 million in 2021, with reader revenues making up more than half of total income

A fine-tuned governance structure and key management changes indicate better alignment between the core journalism activity and the enterprise, designed to ensure that its independence is sustainably delivered

The UK print media sector is facing escalating input cost inflation. Newsprint prices are 50% higher year on year in Q4 2021, noting that prices in 2020 were exceptionally low on soft demand. Based on 2019 rates, prices could be 25% higher in H1 2022. The squeeze on margins for print could destabilise the economics of supply overall

Newsprint inflation is being caused by soaring costs of recycled feedstock, exacerbated by the monopoly of a single supplying mill in the UK after years of attrition. Imports remain substantial, but impaired by the EU-wide crisis in the supply of paper products, alongside bottlenecks at points of entry to the UK

Although less significant a factor than paper in the cost of printing the news, electricity cost inflation is another worry for printers, noting that these costs were again also exceptionally low in 2020. Wholesale electricity prices surged by 80% in 2021 (Ofgem), due to pressure on gas supplies from Russia, and the global energy crisis, which will persist into 2022

 

 

The press industry lost £1 billion off the topline from the calamitous decline in print revenues due to pandemic-related mobility restrictions, partly offset by gains on digital subscriptions, much harder to precisely size in revenue terms.

Trapped at home for the most part, online traffic to BBC News and news publisher services boomed. Popular news sites marginally grew digital advertising while the quality nationals attracted 800,000 new paying subscribers to reach nearly three million in 2020.

The outlook for 2021, in the transition to the ‘new normal’, is mixed. Consumer work patterns and news, information and entertainment habits are unlikely to ‘bounce back’ to pre-pandemic levels, placing free commuter titles at particular risk. Signs of confidence through online innovation are welcome.

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.