Weekly Digest

The Fix Weekly Digest: The Numbers Are Coming Back (But Not the Jobs)

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.

European media are finally seeing some uptick in advertising as travel industry euros and dollars are coming back. As travel restrictions ease and some countries are trying to revive tourism, “optimistic holiday advertisers are buying more ads to make up for lost time”, Digiday shows.

Total ad spending in Europe’s wealthiest nations fell by almost half year-over-year in the first six months of 2020, but the decline has predominantly been caused by the two first months of the pandemic in Europe, March and April. Since May, travel industry ad spend has been growing.

Across the Atlantic second quarter (and first half) results are pouring in – and some are encouraging. For example, for the podcast industry in the United States “things are starting to look almost normal,” as Digiday puts it. 

In the pandemic’s early days, the number of downloads fell by around 10% as listeners stopped commuting, but it has rebounded since, notably due to people creating new listening patterns. There are still problems around advertising and public health restrictions, but the industry is becoming more optimistic.

In a reminder that the COVID-19 induced economic crisis is not the only threat to media, Szabolcs Dull, the editor-in-chief of Hungary’s leading independent news outlet Index was fired this week. The firing took place not long after “he publicly raised alarm over political interference in the outlet’s operations”, writes The Guardian.

His firing, conducted after the website was acquired by a pro-government businessman, highlights serious issues with freedom of speech in Hungary under the rule of Viktor Orbán. As we reported earlier this year, “the Orban government in Hungary has methodically dismantled free press using a wide range of tools”.

The news industry more generally is also becoming to look more like before the pandemic. According to a new study by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, news usage in the UK has been declining consistently in recent months, even though it’s still higher than before the crisis.

The report also looks at information inequality, showing that gaps in news use by age and gender have grown since the peak of the pandemic.

While some numbers are back, the media job market paints a brutal picture. In the previous two editions of this digest, we wrote about media layoffs in some prominent media companies in both Europe and America. This week has brought more general data for the US — and it does not look good.

According to Axios, 2020 might be the worst year for media job cuts since at least 2008. The number of 2020 newsroom layoffs through June has reached 11,000. That’s just 900 shy of the full-year result from a particularly brutal 2018 (11.9K layoffs). The worst year this century – so-far – was 2008 with 14.3K.

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