The pandemic years boosted many businesses selling services on subscription in the UK: work-from-home gave people more time and money to widen the services they enjoyed in the home, such as gaming, entertainment and music, also boosting engagement with trusted news

The cost-of-living crisis dented the number of subscribers to OTT SVOD and news services in Q2 2022. Broadband and mobile are must-have; bundles of services (e.g. Sky’s pay-TV and broadband or mobile) are more resilient; yearly and multi-year contracts prevent churn relative to monthly contracts; and services that cater to passions (e.g. football) are always need-to-have

Subscription (or supporter) media and news services reaped the demand for trusted news through the pandemic, but now face a tough challenge to their toplines from the economic downturn—and also to transition to a sustainable business model for media audiences, while advertisers are also feeling the heat

A forthcoming UK regime on the relationship between publishers and platforms, certain to include Google and Facebook, will seek to replicate the payments achieved in Australia. However, the principles, design and precise process are still to be revealed by the Government

Facebook’s News Tab and Google’s News Showcase license content from publishers (including paywalled content) and direct traffic to their sites, although industry tensions remain high

Google Search is the elephant in the room because, while Facebook is a service to its users, search is a utility: making news more important to its offering, and explaining why Google’s commitment to the news industry runs deeper—and for the long term

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

Buoyed by an impressive 49% growth in digital subscribers, and a refocus on reader revenues, the Telegraph's profits have rebounded to 2016 levels

With current momentum the Telegraph’s 1 million online subscription target looks on track, though doing so sustainably requires further cultural development

Beyond the 2023 target the Telegraph is designing its next phase of growth, and while M&A—and a sale to DMGT—are all possible, the immediate focus will be on growing journalism products that its audience (and potential audience) will pay for

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

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.

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.