2021 is going to be a longer trudge than anyone anticipated. Or as someone recently put it, “2020 has turned into an 18 month year – 2021 is 2020 Part 2”.

The Big Picture is the editorial comment page from the wessendenbriefing newsletter. Click below to sign up for a free sample issue.

However, as consumer confidence seems to wobble from day to day depending on the latest pandemic news, business confidence looks to be firming up. Yet much depends on which sector you are operating in. And whether you actually do have a real strategy for your business. Whilst many media companies have exciting plans for the year ahead and are getting on with implementing them, there are still many who are either dithering over what to do next or whose to-do lists are simply too long to execute anything well. Both are dangerous places to be. So, “execute well” is the mantra for 2021.

Execute well and consistently the mantra for 2021

As the latest issue of the wessendenbriefing newsletter shows, there is a lot to think about almost everywhere you look. The most obvious area is in company business models, where the long-term and well-documented trends are accelerating. Things like…..

  • More D2C activity rather than going through middlemen, retailers and etailers.
  • Building reader revenues rather than ad revenues.
  • Moving from ad hoc purchasing to recurring revenue models; shifting from subscriptions to membership models.
  • Emphasising audience retention rather than relentless (and expensive) acquisition.
  • Charging more for quality paid content; dynamic pricing by audience segment; making payment easier and more seamless.
  • Diversifying the revenue streams, both in terms of activity and new geographical territories.
  • Investing in digital platforms rather than holding on to print; developing listening and watching platforms (audio and video) as well as reading.
  • Fast-tracking ecommerce.

And so on and so on. Then add in on top of all this, broader issues with capital letters such as Diversity and Sustainability.  Another dimension to all this is playing the “long game”. The success of companies like Netflix and the New York Times has been built on the relentless execution of a consistent strategy over several years – in the case of the NYT, five years. Subs are the flavour of the month, but they are not a quick fix.

Yet behind all these trends are five big themes that run through a number of news items in this issue and through Wessenden’s whole mediafutures benchmarking project (for the Executive Summary, email info@wessenden.com)…..

The five big themes behind the revenue streams

M&A. What everyone is expecting to be a year of frenetic activity has already kicked off with National World’s acquisition of JPI and Future’s continued growth in comparison sites. Yet in almost every area of media and in virtually every content pipeline, digital or physical, there is both the need and the opportunity for consolidation and for the merging of skills. One of the more thought-provoking M&A predictions, which first appeared in The Grocer, is that Amazon could (and should) buy Tesco rather than mess around gobbling up little old Morrisons – the longstanding suggestion for Amazon’s entry into bricks & mortar grocery. Yet there are also some major battles going on between the Big Tech companies, especially in TV streaming, where publisher newspaper & magazine content could play a much bigger role in the lifestyle subscription bundles that the FAANG companies are building. A few strategic M&A deals can quickly transform a whole sector or a complete industry.

COMPANY ORGANISATION & CULTURE. Having a smarter front-end revenue model is as essential part of success in 2021, but so is being to operate at speed, change direction quickly and to test-and-tweak constantly: adapting to a marketplace that can change radically and unpredictably almost overnight. All that means…. having an organisation that is both flexible, but with clear roles and accountability; a culture of innovation built on mutual respect and trust; and a workforce that has the right skills in the right places. All easy to say, but much more difficult to execute well.

MEASUREMENT, EFFICIENCY & EFFECTIVENESS. This starts with understanding the audience through data insight, but it goes way beyond that into understanding what makes your own organisation tick and what the metrics of success actually are – defining them, tracking them and flexing them. And why not start with a good, old-fashioned metric, like making a profit? Or staff productivity and process efficiency?

TECH. What the latest mediafutures report highlights so strongly is that tech remains a problem area for most newspaper and magazine operations. Whilst major advances have been made over the last couple of years, most media companies simply do not have the tech platforms in place that can manage the smart execution of a flexing business model. Investment in this whole area has been one of the short-term casualties for many companies in the budget cuts of 2020.

And the final big theme is RESILIENCE. In the ongoing churn of constant “test and tweak”, corporate self-belief and determination have never been more important.

Execute well. And just keep on keeping on. It’s a longer game than any of us originally thought.

The Big Picture is the editorial comment page from the wessendenbriefing newsletter.  Click below to sign up for a free sample issue.

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