How Covid-19 changed Earned Media & PR Web [UK]
10 ways the Covid-19 crisis has impacted earned media
The impact of COVID-19 on earned media
Exploring the evolution of earned media pre- and during the COVID-19 crisis
In the world of media, the COVID-19 crisis revealed an incredible paradox: whilst for the first time in history digital information reached record audiences on all continents, at the same time advertising investments have been hard hit as marketing budgets face increased pressure and scrutiny.
Yet, from the first days of the crisis, governments have relied heavily on press and earned media to get their messages to the people. Despite a drop in advertising investment, earned media has been operating at full capacity.
In this report, Kantar offers you a better understanding of the reality of the changes affecting the media world. Even long before the COVID-19 crisis, the media industry was facing major structural challenges and new perspectives. The consequences of the pandemic have somewhat accelerated the emerging trends observed over the past several years.
All the major crises in history, whether international, social or health crises, have generated developments and brought change. Jeremy Parola, Director of Digital for the Reworld Media group, believes that today's pandemic has been "a driving force for innovation".
Using insights from our latest studies, including Kantar's "Boosting brand reputation in a personalised world" report, we aim to highlight how earned media has changed across 8 trends and what this means for Communications and PR professionals.
Christophe Dickès, Strategic Projects Manager, Media Division, Kantar
1. Media: the great return
Established media: the great return?
Throughout the global pandemic one trend has been clear when it comes to consumer media consumption - there's been an increase across all channels.
Kantar's COVID-19 barometer has charted the evolution of consumer behaviour throughout this time. The insights reveal that linear (+42%) and on demand (+46%) TV consumption both increased substantially as consumers - largely restricted in being able to go outside the home - turned to television content for entertainment and information. There were also substantial increases in radio and podcast consumption (+22% each). Finally, newspapers (+14%) and magazines (+9%) have also benefited, albeit to a slightly lesser extent.
What's striking is that all formats and media types have been impacted and have seen an increase in consumption.
What does it mean for PR?
Multimedia consumption forces PR agencies and professionals to adapt their communication to these different types of media, but also to review their expectations in terms of ROI for each category of media and audience.
While pressure has been on communications and PR teams to ensure brand messages are landing in light of reduced advertising budgets, there's also never been such a great opportunity to engage audiences through earned media across the different channels.
But where to start? And how to measure? With established audience targeting and measurement tools and processes in place for advertising, PR professionals need to consider how they can most effectively prove the impact of their work on business.
Trust in News
The importance of media brands
With 'fake news' now a household term and big social networking companies facing social and political scrutiny over how they promote and authenticate content, consumer trust towards different media channels is changing with newspapers, radio and TV the most trusted formats.
Our DIMENSION 2020 study anticipated this trend; in the UK trust is generated first by the news outlets and media brands themselves rather than the journalist reporting the information. 38% of UK consumers said their trust in news came most from the organisation where the story appeared, while 20% said it depended both on the journalist and the news organisation equally. Only 14% said their trust depended on the journalist writing the piece, while the same percentage said they don't mind who writes the news story or where it appears.
All this has only been heightened in the context of COVID-19. In the UK, Kantar's Barometer revealed 50% of the population surveyed considered the national media to be amongst the most reliable sources versus only 6% for social media.
Throughout this crisis, consumers were very attentive to the news. Given the scale of the crisis and the need for clear information, they sought news rather than opinion.
As a result, trust will be more likely to come from traditional and established channels (Press, TV, Radio) rather than from social networks deemed unreliable, even if the latter have been very popular.
What does it mean for PR?
In times of crisis, the media brand is an asset. The renewed confidence in institutional media is pushing PR professionals to communicate in reliable mainstream media, which gives them authority and credibility.
Earned media builds trust and allows brands or organisations to gain credit from the media they use. This is the "halo effect" that Kantar identifies in the DIMENSION 2020 study as one of the key points for understanding what is affecting brand reputation today. New forms of partnerships are even to be invented with media brands, beyond the relationship with journalists.
All professionals in the sector agree that the coronavirus crisis has sped up the digital transition of media. Digital, even if it only partially compensates for the decline in print, is a growth driver. In this context, the major media brands or media groups that have been working within a truly digital culture for the last decade or so have a head start.
This is not limited to the publication of exclusive content or the takeover of print content. It is distinguished by a multiplication of digital initiatives and innovations.
In this respect, novelty has not been neglected in any sector: new editorial formats, new habits, new audiences, new forms of writing, etc. Media brands have produced videos and podcasts, multiplied initiatives (fact checking, live streaming...), used their media in all formats (Trackers, data visualisation...) allowing consumers to read, listen, see information and even... participate (Testimonials, Questions/Answers...). Some press groups have thus become pluri-media groups.
Today, the challenge for media groups is therefore to retain the digital audiences gained during quarantine and respond to new behaviour such as the consumption of delinearized information, catch-up, use of smartphones, etc.
It's more of a rebound than a reboot or restart, according to Stanislas Seveno, Director of Media Consulting at Kantar. The test and learn strategy remains important in this process, even from a commercial point of view. Indeed, the media have been constantly testing new offers to attract consumers and a new readership: multimedia offers, limited time offers, freemium, paywalls and other formulas to "reinvent the relationship with their audiences".
What does it mean for PR?
The multiplication of digital formats forces professionals in the sector to better understand the nature of these communication channels in order to better adapt to them. Digital is becoming more complex: acknowledging this complexity means being able to adjust and respond better. Video format in particular has emerged as essential. The rising success of Tik Tok is a telling example.
4. How resilient is Print Media?
How resilient is Print Media?
In January 2020, according to ABC figures, the national UK press sold a total of 7.4m copies - a fall of more than half (55%) within ten years! During the COVID-19 crisis, there was a decrease of 30% in print activity. Nevertheless, even if print has been declining steadily for several years (at an average of 7%), talk of the death of print media is still premature: "We are in a revolution that will put an end to paper, even if it is not next year," says media historian Christian Delporte.
Some media brands have reduced their print runs and some titles have disappeared or gone into liquidation for lack of advertising revenue.
Yet rarely has the press been so widely consumed and read during this period of disruption, whilst people have been under lockdown. The need for local information has contributed to this mini trend. This might be, in the grand scheme of things, a small blip, but is still important.
Finally, in the medium and longer term, as a recent Havas study has shown, consumers are tending towards "slower and deeper" reading habits that favour paper. Turning their backs on information overload and the ever increasing pace of everyday life, they are turning to “slow reading” and striking a new balance between use of digital and print. The Havas study concludes that the reading of print media could ultimately even see renewed interest in the long term - something of which publishers should be mindful.
Trust Score (Brands and services)
What does it mean for PR?
Will 'slow reading' fundamentally change media consumption? French national newspaper Le Monde's campaign: "write fewer articles but better", in the vein of the New York Times' campaigns, corroborates this idea. By taking more time to digest content, consumers will be more demanding about how brands communicate and will expect valuable content from them. Journalists, on the other hand, will focus on developing information rather than condensing it. PR will have to respond to this expectation by taking the time to explain it.
Print media may still be used by many as a means of forging a strengthened relationship of trust between their brand and their audience.
Indeed, according to the DIMENSION 2020 study, written press is considered by consumers as one of the most reliable communication channels to obtain information on brands and services (Trust Score: 71).
5. The smartphone: the key enabler of mobility and... lockdown life.
The smartphone: the key enabler of mobility and... lockdown life.
As expected during the lockdown period, the smartphone became a key device whilst we were forced to stay at home, providing us with a multitude of online media content.
Indeed, reflecting increased reliance on tech generally as a result of the pandemic, insights from our TGI Global Quick View consumer data across 25 markets worldwide show that 47% of adults feel that the coronavirus crisis has helped them embrace technology, with this figure up to 80% in some markets.
Throughout the various iterations of the Kantar COVID-19 Barometer, we have highlighted media interconnectivity: heavy users of smartphones consumed more magazines and newspapers but also consumed new media such as podcasts and TV on demand.
What does it mean for PR?
Taking into account the increased usage of mobile devices and how they tie in to your PR strategy, it is key to respect the golden rule of communication: "go where the audience is".
Highlighting interconnectivity between media means better understanding consumer affinities. Mastering these affinities means knowing how to support them in their media consumption without being intrusive.
TGI Global Quick View provides you with international data on the connected consumer, with coverage on:
- General digital behaviours and preferences
- Usage of digital media services
- Attitudes and demographics to define various personality and identity classifications
- Purchase categories (online and offline), and usage of global brands in key categories
The survey is fully harmonised, giving you an overview of behaviours across 25 markets and an understanding of local differences.
TGI Global Quick View enables you to optimise your brand positioning, reach your client’s target audiences consistently across multiple markets & identify global consumer trends and tap into local business opportunities.
Contact us to discover this and other TGI solutions or get a demo.
6. The importance of values and virtues
The importance of values and virtues
The primary mission of media is to inform readers, listeners or viewers. But it is also to inform usefully and convey values...
Fleeing "commentary-ism", media consumers have, especially during the Covid-19 crisis, searched useful news in their daily lives. During the crisis, very practical editorials lines were defined by clearly relaying what to do or not to do and how to live from day to day (sharing experiences, health advice, practical guides, etc.). This has helped media brands, especially local ones, to build closer relationships with their readers.
There is another trend: defending values. During lockdown the courage of healthcare staff was praised but also supported by original, concrete initiatives. This has seen the positioning of media shift towards what Havas calls "frugal marketing": a sort of call for humility and a return to essential values in a world in crisis.
By highlighting positive initiatives here and there (actions and networks that show solidarity, heroism, good news, etc...), the media more than ever have been complying with their role of public utility. They have brought positive news against the backdrop of the crisis, always with a view of resilience and proximity.
What does it mean for PR?
For several years now, brands have seen a real focus on communication based on values (authenticity, search for meaning, respect for the environment...). This is a trend that is not going to slow down - quite the contrary. It is becoming a must-have for any campaign. But beware of brand bashing if there is a difference between what brands do and what they say. "To be seen as authentic in its activism on a particular issue, a brand must only guarantee that this lasts for its purpose from one end of its value chain to the other," stresses Pablo Gomez in Kantar's Media Trends and Predictions 2020.
7. The decline in advertising spending
The decline in advertising spend
As we saw in our introduction, the Covid-19 crisis has led to an increase in digital media consumption. However, at the same time, the crisis has caused a drop in print sales and a drastic fall in advertising. In order to cope with this situation, media brands have deployed numerous subscription models with a single goal: to convert new audiences into subscribers.
Nevertheless, with rare exceptions, even the addition of new subscribers does not fully compensate for advertising revenue losses. As a result, the economic model for press remains more fragile than ever, even precarious for some. Monetising audiences is a challenge in an unstable and fragmented media world. In the face of the coronavirus crisis, asking for support from governments seems unavoidable. In some instances, emergency plans have been enacted to support the press.
Monetising audiences is a challenge in an unstable and fragmented media world.
Fernando Yarza, president of Wan Ifra (World Association of News Publishers), said: "If there is no help, it will be a tsunami and a tragedy for democracy.” Specific aid, investment credit, institutional advertising campaigns, tax credits, zero rate VAT, extension of the furlough scheme... there is no shortage of ideas, but they are subject to the financial capacities of governments which are already under great pressure. Hence the desire to address big tech and the GAFAs of this world.
What does it mean for PR?
PR professionals must diversify their communication and tailor it towards a broader spread of channels in order to compensate for the slowdown of established media. Diversifying means reaching out to network influencers, community leaders and creators, exploring new independent or associative media, tracking emerging media...
8. Is there a short-term resolution to conflict with big tech?
Is there a short-term resolution to the conflict with big tech?
The domination of Google and Facebook in the digital advertising market, coupled with unauthorised and unpaid use of media content, is beginning to generate opposition and scrutiny around the world. For example, the Australian advertising market is worth 5.3 billion euros. 47% of this is absorbed by Google, 24% by Facebook and only 19% by the regular press.
However, Google, Facebook and the other platforms stress that they provide the media with an audience; huge swathes of consumers access content via their digital platforms.
Moreover, rather than paying royalties, the global tech giants prefer to support the press through special funds, as was the case in France between 2013 and 2016 (Digital Press Innovation Fund / €20M per year), followed in 2015 by the Digital News Initiative (DNI) with €150M.
The is something that was recently renewed in the context of the coronavirus crisis: 5,300 media brands, selected from 12,000 applications from 140 eligible countries, will receive specific financial aid from Google (between $5,000 and $30,000 per media brand). This aid is directed mainly at smaller businesses that are suffering most from the crisis.
At the same time, after years of debate in Brussels, the European Union has created a legal agreement, to the benefit of publishers, with the aim of making the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) pay up. However, once transposed into French law, Google and Facebook told publishers that they would no longer be referenced on their platform or appear on it, unless they themselves pay the financial compensation set out in this legal agreement.
Faced with this dilemma, publishers asked the public authorities to call on Google to negotiate to remunerate the use of publishers’ content on these platforms. The next few months will be decisive as, under antitrust law, the US Department of Justice is reviewing Google's domination of the advertising market.
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