The publishing sector went through big changes this year, from restructures, new titles and the doubling-down on subscription-based funding models.
Throughout the year Nine and Fairfax Media completed their merger. The new business resulted in further redundancies, a feature at other publishing houses such as News Corp Australia and Buzzfeed Australia.
We also saw new titles emerge, such as Nine’s Good Food monthly magazine and News Corp Australia’s Agjournal. Cinema and outdoor player Val Morgan also revealed its first publishing play with a digital platform.
In another shake-up for the sector, Seven West Media is gearing up to sell Pacfiic magazine to Bauer Media, despite the deal still pending approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The acquisition will give Bauer firm control on the publishing market.
More recently, the government’s response to the Digital Platforms Inquiry by the ACCC confirmed changes will come in 2020 for media businesses. A key policy is the code of conduct to address the bargaining power imbalance between tech giants and media companies.
Top bosses including new Seven boss James Warbuton and Nine CEO High Marks have largely welcomed the key announcements, while others, such as News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller, expressed disappointment with the voluntary nature of the codes.
With all the changes, we reached out to leaders in the field to see how they think 2020 will play out.
Chris Janz, Nine managing director of publishing
Newsrooms will grow, adding to the dozens of new roles we created in 2019, as readers and advertisers confidently invest in quality journalism.
Readers will increasingly subscribe, turning to trusted publications that specialise in investigative and analytical journalism that makes a difference. And advertisers will increasingly shun unsafe environments in favour of mastheads that have almost two centuries' experience building trust and value. The end result will be good for journalism and good for the broader community.
Kerri Elstub, Nine digital editorial director
More personalisation is on the agenda for 2020. People want to feel connected to their news and lifestyle sites – that may be through personalised newsletters or stories that they see themselves in. They want to know they’re engaging with real people and real stories. Audiences are rapidly using tools on their devices to organise and curate their own media experience and they want publishers to be able to help them quickly understand the world around them and as it relates to their life.
Nicholas Gray, News Corp Australia managing director for The Australian, NSW & Prestige Titles
Growth in 2020 will be underpinned by consumer-paid media, powered by digital subscriptions across news media, an explosion of new streaming services, and an increasing recognition by the tech titans (with more than a nudge from the regulators) that they must improve their terms of trade with content creators. After a subdued 2019 the advertising market should return to positive growth, with providers who have great brands, content and data solutions best placed.
Julian Delany, News Corp Australia managing director for News DNA
Content will continue to be the key differentiator for publishers in 2020. In a crowded and competitive digital environment, investment in the creation and delivery of quality content remains key. Consumers are more adept than ever in recognising trusted sources. Their willingness to pay - and decision to engage - is driven by trust and authority that only authentic content can deliver. It is content from publishers and the insights generated, that provide new opportunities to create a trusted connection with consumers for commercial partners.
Brendon Hill, Bauer Media CEO
The publishing industry will continue to grow their audiences across all channels. They will gain a deeper understanding of these premium and engaged eyeballs and get serious about competing with overseas based digital social (media) companies. The demand to create branded content for retailers and manufacturers will grow and allow for further investment in digital and data capabilities.
Paul Sigaloff, Verizon Media AUNZ managing director
In a tough ad market, diversifying revenue sources is going to be critical to maintaining growth. For premium publishers, commerce is a huge and untapped opportunity that can fit neatly into existing business.
Publishers of news and lifestyle content attract consumers seeking both information and inspiration. Each is a key step in the customer journey. Trusted publishers also have a built-in user base of in-market shoppers waiting to be activated.
The recent Yahoo Mail app update is an example of how we’re taking advantage of this opportunity by integrating a sophisticated ability to track and alert users of retail deals and offers based on personalised data and location.
Next year, I expect more publishers to integrate commerce across content through native and shoppable ads, as well as affiliate programs. They can also look to the full spectrum of transactions available, including experiential marketing, live events, games and more.
Neil Ackland, Junkee Media CEO
As the challenging media market is expected to continue into 2020, Publishers without a clearly differentiated proposition and audience will struggle to survive the storm. This will most likely lead to greater consolidation and the possible retreat or significant retraction of international publishers as the need to turn a profit forces them to face the realities of their lack of return on investment in Australia. To survive, you either need huge scale, or great depth of expertise around your audience. Where you don’t want to be is somewhere in the middle.
Gaye Murray, Frankie Press general manager
The healthy growth of branded content will continue as brands look to create authentic connections with customers across all platforms – print, digital, socials, podcasts and events. Values-driven marketing messages will fuel this growth, particularly for those brands targeting millennials. Publishers who know their audiences intimately, have established strong emotional connections and trust, and have cultivated community will be best placed for success. At frankie, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on incorporating events into campaigns, as marketers take advantage of our ability to attract a loyal audience and create experiences that deliver on objectives and delight attendees.
Jess Blanch, Russh editor-in-chief
This first year of this new decade will bring a focus on community and bringing an audience together in a tangible way that has a positive influence on culture and the potential to drive actual social change. It is time to move past purely digital interactions and build actual neighbourhoods with your audience that has come together due to shared values. Russh has begun to address this through community events such as book club, Russh radio, our podcast and thought leadership series and events around those topics close to our heart like creativity and sustainability. Key to this is providing a platform for this conversation to be continued online within a trusted environment.
Vanessa Lawrence, Pedestrian Group publisher
My prediction for 2020 is a seismic shift in the platform-publisher relationship. We’re already seeing a growing number of publishers revert to putting core audience interests above platform demands, doubling down on subscription models and events that offer a genuine point of connection with readers. Instead of crafting a strategy around platform products and hoping the dollars roll in, what I think we’ll see next year is a much-heightened bar for signing onto journalism initiatives as publishers let revenue determine which platform - if any - meets their business needs.
The government’s response to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry report will play a big part in this shift; Facebook and Google will be required to negotiate commercial terms with publishers for the use of their content by November next year. When we do reach the point where platforms’ revenue models are finally aligned to publishers’, publishers who have previously been reluctant to partner or invest in platform growth will be much more inclined to do so - and that not only spells a more harmonious relationship but better content for readers to enjoy.
Luke Girgis, The Brag Media CEO
With growing demand for the big four tech giants to be broken up, I believe all will proactively self-regulate in the hope to calm the angry mob. This will be great news for publishers, where I predict our referral traffic from both Google and Facebook will increase as they double down on working with us in order to curb market sentiment.
I also believe 2020 is the year Australian CMOs finally catch up to the US and fully commit to content marketing. In 2019 we saw Instagram, a huge reach platform itself invest heavily in content marketing with smaller publishers. This was a clear mark of what’s to come.
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