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Pandemic accelerates shifts in media landscape

09 March 2021

By Henry Taylor

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the UK first entering lockdown, it goes without saying that the news agenda for the last twelve months has been overwhelmingly shaped by the pandemic. Indeed, virtually every story from the front page of national papers to bylines in obscure trade publications has been influenced in some way by COVID-19. 

However, the pandemic has also drastically altered how people consume content, according to new research from YouGov. These shifts have some potentially significant consequences, and have been driven both by consumers and outlets themselves. In the case of the former, large swathes of the population being confined to their homes has accelerated some ongoing trends – for example, viewership of streaming video via platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime has seen a sharp increase, largely at the expense of live and on-demand TV. 

Podcasts have also seen significant growth in the last year, with comedy proving the most popular category as people look for some light relief from the merciless tedium of lockdown.

At the same time, media outlets have felt the economic impact of the crisis acutely. A double-digit decline in print sales and the tightening of belts among advertisers have taken their toll, and many publications have sadly been unable to stay afloat during the last year. Those that have survived have been forced to pivot towards their digital offering, entering the brutal arena of online publications competing for attention and clicks – increasingly via mobile devices – while the industry’s slim margins continue to pose financial challenges.

What does all of this mean for businesses looking to deliver their message effectively to audiences in this new media climate? There are several key takeaways. The growth of podcasts is one key consideration. More than ever, companies need to be open to the opportunities in this space and ensure that they have spokespeople who are confident speakers for the format. In the last year, we’ve seen more and more sector-specific publications launching podcasts, which can provide more personal, thoughtful discussion than a written piece at relatively little cost. 

It’s worth noting that many prominent business podcasts are highly conscious of the diversity of their guests so having strong female and BAME spokespeople is an important factor. 

Secondly, the importance of visuals for news stories is greater than ever. Television has been by far the most popular format for news in the last year – perhaps unsurprisingly given the regularity of televised government briefings. However, online news stories can also accommodate much more visual content than their print counterparts both in terms of videos and photos. In both cases, having striking imagery to accompany stories can be a make-or-break factor in the success of corporate announcements. This imagery can also feed into social media content, which remains a regular source of news for a third of Britons.

By ensuring that their communications strategies fit with this shifting landscape, businesses can position themselves for strategic success and ensure they take full advantage of the opportunities out there in the rapidly evolving media environment.