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You snooze, you lose: Media must adapt or go extinct

Around the world, media companies are cutting costs and laying off employees, especially among traditional media. Yet, it’s not all bleak across the board ...

Print has been hit the hardest by the digital age Our attention has shifted to instantaneous digital media and advertisers have taken note VR and AR - the newest kids on the block - stand to inject an unprecedented amount of innovation

While the digital age brought with it numerous innovations, it also severely hurt plenty of old staples of modern culture. We’ve greeted mobile phones and the Internet, but are bidding farewell to newspapers and magazines.

Across the globe, media companies are cutting costs and laying off employees. Especially among traditional media, the atmosphere is that of doom and gloom.

Yet, it’s not as bleak across the board. Some mediums are proving way more dominant than others, while new mediums are looking to completely reshape the media industry.

Print is dying

It goes without saying that print has been hit the hardest by the digital age.

According to Pew Research Center, the estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2017 was 31 million for weekdays and 34 million for Sunday, down 11% and 10%, respectively, from the previous year – not a decade or 5 years.

(Graph by Pew Research Center)

The situation has been dire everywhere. As-Safir, a Lebanese newspaper that had been in business for 42 years, went out of print at the end of 2016. Fellow Lebanese newspaper Annahar cut dozens of jobs in recent years.

Xpress, a weekly UAE tabloid by Gulf News, shut down its print operations last year, after 11 years in business.

The print fallout is spilling to news agencies as well. CNN reported in December last year that the world-famous Thomson Reuters news agency is eliminating 12% of its global workforce, in a fervent attempt at cost-cutting amidst falling revenues.

Magazines have taken a hit too, with numerous international brands shutting operations or moving entirely to digital, such as Glamour and Information Week making the transition.

The future is digital

On the other side of the pond, digital media has been trailblazing.

Everything from social media to online video streaming has changed the way we consume content. We are less stationery, we have shorter attention spans, and require immediate access to content. The days of recording our favorite shows on DVRs are mostly long gone.

With our need for immediate content, our attention has shifted to digital media that provides instantaneous news and content. Advertisers have taken note, and have made the shift with users.

Broadcast media, for example, is already feeling the heat from this departure. According to Bloomberg, “TV-advertising sales in the U.S. fell 7.8% to $61.8 billion , the steepest drop outside of a recession in at least 20 years, while sales at cable networks slumped for the first time in almost a decade.”

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix: These have become the industry staples that we know and love today, enabled by faster-than-ever internet speeds and high-tech smartphones.

Ad spend is reflecting the changes in consumption trends as well. According to IAB’s latest Internet Advertising Revenue Report, social media ad revenue in the U.S. alone amounted to $13.1 billion in the first six months of 2018, up 38% from the first half of 2017, Statista notes.

By 2021, mobile video will drive 24% of all internet video traffic, Deloitte said.

(Facebook's global revenue as of Q3 2018. Chart by Statista)

The MENA market naturally echoes these international numbers, with research firm Zenith forecasting that digital advertising would comprise 44.1% of MENA advertising by 2020.

The next phase of the digital age 

(Data from PwC's Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2018–2022 report. Graph by PwC)

But forget Instagram and its ilk. Media keeps evolving, and the next biggest names on the international stage might take you by surprise. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and even podcasts are looking to completely change (again) the way we consume content. Again, advertisers will be quick to hop on the bandwagon with their customers.

– VR and AR 

VR and AR are the newest kids on the block, and stand to inject an unprecedented amount of innovation into the industry.

“The fastest growth will be in digitally driven segments, with virtual reality leading the way, followed by over-the-top content (OTT),” PwC said. CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of VR is forecast at around 40% over the next 5 years.

The consumer VR market is now projected to grow from $2.7 billion last year to $9.2 billion in 2022, a 28% growth rate, according to a new forecast by ARtillry Intelligence.

Most advertisers haven’t made the jump just yet, but once they do, there will be money to be made. Analysts have predicted that the VR business, although “very modest” throughout 2018, will rise to $38 billion in annual revenues by 2026, according to a Greenlight Insights 10-year forecast.

– Podcasts

Podcasts have existed for around 10 years, and have been picking up steam in recent years. Their revenues are projected to grow at a nearly 30% annual rate between 2018 and 2022, according to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) research.

– Video games and e-sports 

Video games have played a major role in bringing to the fore an entirely new medium in recent years, and will only continue to grow greater in significance.

“E-sports will be the second fastest-growing segment if it were separated from the overall ‘Video games and e-sports’ segment,” the firm continued in its report.

The coming years will see these younger technologies make a notable dent in the market, while tried and tested staples like YouTube and Netflix will continue to assert their dominance. Whether print can adapt to remain afloat is yet to be seen. At the moment, its prospects aren’t looking too great.