Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.
Successful Business Models as a Path to Recovery
As media companies start reporting third-quarter results and the pandemic increasingly becomes another fact of life, we have picked three noteworthy stories which showcase the models for recovery from the crisis.
Recently, we’ve seen a couple of success stories coming from Scandinavia. Despite the pandemic, some top Nordic media are showing strong results thanks to their focus on innovative business models — digital subscriptions and podcasting. Over the past two weeks, strong results were reported by Schibsted, one of the largest Scandinavian media groups, as well as Dagens Nyheter, a top newspaper in Sweden.
Both companies made a successful bet on digital subscriptions, with reporting 830,000 digital subscribers for its outlets in Sweden and Norway, and Dagens Nyheter on course to show the most profitable year in this century. In addition, Schibsted is shaking the young Nordic podcasting market.
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American publication Axios is also on track to make a profit this year and has managed to avoid the staff cuts affecting much of the industry. The key to success: focus on its sponsor-newsletter business.
Axios built its name on “smart brevity”, which means bringing essential news in the shortest form possible. A wide array of industry-specific newsletters is at the core of its value proposition.
It turns out, newsletters monetize pretty well. According to The Wall Street Journal, Axios expects to get $58 million in revenue this year, a 30% increase compared to 2019. Newsletters supported by sponsors, including big companies like Comcast and Wells Fargo, account for more than a half of the revenue.
The number of newsletter subscribers almost doubled within the last year. Today, 1.4 million people receive Axios newsletters, with 4 million newsletters being sent out daily.
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Reach, the UK’s largest newspaper publisher, has announced it is gradually recovering from the pandemic’s worst impact. Most notably, digital revenue showed a 13% increase year-on-year in the third quarter.
The overall company’s revenue fell by 15% as compared with the same period last year, driven by the declines in print revenue, though it improved compared with the worst months of 2020. Reach is the owner of Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, and various other newspapers.
In other news, there are rising concerns over British media independence following reports that the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered two top media jobs in the country, chairman of the BBC and head of the Ofcom, to two hardline conservatives and staunch BBC critics — Paul Dacre and Charles Moore, respectively.
The potential of “critics of the UK media” actually being put in charge of the UK media has sparked significant criticism, particularly from liberal outlets such as The Guardian, drawing concerns over the BBC’s independence and the future of its funding model. Still, it is not clear whether the appointments will become a reality. (The government has neither confirmed nor denied the reports).
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Meanwhile, research by Pew Research Center, shows that YouTube is becoming a significant source of news for Americans. According to the survey, about a quarter of US adults get their news from the video platform. Most of them say YouTube is an important way to get the news.
According to the survey, YouTube exhibits a news landscape “in which established news organizations and independent news creators thrive side by side”. In other words, CNN’s YouTube channel is an important source of news, but so is the ecosystem of small video blogs.
While the triumph of independent creators is often a positive trend that shows democratization of the media market, they are also more likely “more likely to focus on conspiracy theories, cover subjects negatively”.