Five Media Trends Shaping 2021

In January, Ben Smith, former Buzzfeed editor-in-chief and current New York Times media reporter tweeted: “Just got interviewed for a podcast about newsletters, so it’s definitely 2021 now.”

Ben nails it. Media has again evolved to respond to changing news consumption habits, challenging newsroom dynamics and the continued rise of social media influence.

For our organizations in the professional services, financial services and healthcare industries, the old media playbook won’t cut it in 2021. Old stereotypes and assumptions must be thrown out too.

Here are five major media trends for the year ahead:

  • Comments vs. Convos – Another year of devastating newsroom cuts means there are fewer reporters contending with a faster pace of news and increased demands for output. The impact? Reporters have less time for interviews and need perspective fast. We recently helped a client secure excellent coverage on a survey launch without conducting a single live interview. Pithy perspective and a clear “so what” in media materials will be critical to make the cut.
  • Seeking Source Diversity – Reporters are more mindful than ever of prioritizing source diversity, and in some cases, are specifically requesting BIPOC sources to interview. There is also rightfully more accountability across newsrooms for hiring and promoting BIPOC journalists. Organizations need to audit and likely bolster their spokesperson bench to ensure they are diverse and representative. Take steps now to prepare your next gen brand ambassadors.
  • Investing in Audio – Publications are following their audience and ad revenues, and new media podcasts are surging. While podcasts are not the only channel publications are investing in, it is a markedly different format: The average podcast is 43 minutes, according to Edison research. Speaking in soundbites is still critical, but spokespeople are also going to need to get comfortable being on the record for long-form commentary. Storytelling, anecdotes, human connection and humor will be a standard part of media training going forward.
  • Paying for Quality – In the end, the truth is worth it. The paywall trend is not new, but it is accelerating in the wild wild west of disinformation and can be a credibility builder. A majority of U.S. newspapers and some of the best writers and reporters are behind a paywall now as publishers try to retrain readers that good journalism isn’t free. Consumer subscriptions are on the rise. Companies looking for a broad reach of coverage through social need to get over their paywall prejudice. Smart marketers can get creative and find ways to pull out and promote quotes or stats to leverage paywalled placements.
  • Rise of the Freelancer/Influencer – Speaking of paying for quality, some of the more influential reporters are leaving major publications to go solo. Substack and other subscription-based newsletters present a compelling revenue opportunity for individual reporters who can find a following. However, just like consumers who wanted to “cut the cord” only to find themselves signed onto multiple streaming subscriptions, there will be a threshold in terms of the number of subscriptions they are willing to maintain. Even if a Substack backlash hits, companies will need to quash any bias against freelancers when prioritizing media relationship building, as reporter influence is no longer solely tied to a publication brand.

For more data and conversation on the impact of these media trends, view our brief deck below.

If your company needs to pivot media strategy, retrain spokespeople or build the next generation of brand ambassadors, reach out to learn more about how we can help.

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