Stuck in a web

The latest release from the Office of National Statistics on use of the internet in the UK underscores again just how prevalent the world wide web has become in our daily lives.

From a PR and communications perspective one of the more interesting findings was that the number of adults reading their news, newspapers or magazines online as opposed to in print has tripled from 20% in 2007 to 64% in 2017. Of all the changes in usage over the past decade this was one of the most pronounced. Internet banking, for instance, rose by 33 percentage points since 2007 to 63% in 2017.

Earlier this year the Financial Times – which has led the UK media sector in terms of a digital-first business model – said it had achieved a record high circulation of almost 850,000 across digital and print, up 8% year-on-year. Significantly, digital subscriptions grew 14% to 650,000, more than three-quarters of the total paying audience. It added that FT.com is one of the fastest news sites in the world, loading in 1.5 seconds on desktop and 2.1 on mobiles, helping to increase reader engagement by 30%.

According to eMarketer, UK print advertising spend has fallen every year since 2008, when it totalled £5bn, with £3.6bn spent on newspapers and £1.4bn on magazines. In 2016, print adspend total more than halved to £2.3bn, with £1.6bn going to newspapers and £0.7bn to magazines. In that time, online advertising spend has grown from £3.4bn to £9.6bn.

So, one of the big questions is how long print can last given this online onslaught? Google tells me – in the blink of an eye – that most commentators think print will be redundant in term of daily news in less than five years.

For me, an even more interesting question is, who will be the news and content brands of the future? In this increasingly digital era where news, information, data and content – and who hosts it – is changing fast, will the mass market still depend on traditional names such as the BBC and the FT… or brands such as LinkedIn (one of the key reasons why Microsoft spent $25bn last year acquiring LinkedIn was its 500-million-strong global ‘readership’)?

According to a recent article in the FT, Microsoft reported adjusted revenues of $24.7bn, up 9% from the prior year, for the fiscal fourth quarter that ended on June 30 2017. Much of that growth came from the acquisition of LinkedIn, which contributed $1.1bn in revenues during the quarter. Without the addition of LinkedIn, Microsoft’s underlying business would have grown just 4%.

Written by Hugh Fasken, Director

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