Solely for weeks: publishers forecast gross sales development in 2021

Despite persistent difficulties, the mood of media professionals borders on optimism, even if they realistically recognize that a recovery will not occur until mid-2021, tell us publishers that responded to an Adweek survey.

Publishers in particular, able and willing to invest in their editorial teams, see opportunities in connected television, commerce, and virtual events as areas they can use to prepare for the anticipated recovery.

Around 68% of those surveyed were either very or slightly optimistic about the coming year. Adweek interviewed 122 attendees at its first virtual event, Elevate: Publishing, where dozens of media representatives from The Atlantic, Bloomberg Media, Axios and The Information shared their current and future plans.

Think of it as a reaction to a tumultuous and relentlessly bleak 2020 as the media industry – along with the rest of the world – is eagerly looking for signs of sunnier skies in the New Year.

"At Bloomberg Media, we are planning a recovery in the second half of the year beginning towards the end of the second quarter," said Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media. "We have already started seeing a lot of the green shoots in anticipation of the end of these difficult 10 months that we have just had."

For its part, Bloomberg Media pointed to a healthy third and fourth quarters after a disastrous second quarter as the financial news giant expects to end the year flat compared to 2019. These green shoots are most notable in the company's betting, according to Smith, with digital subscriptions, virtual events, and connected television, the outlook for 2021 is far brighter. Unlike most publishers, Bloomberg Media can count on its parent company's solid financial services terminal business and endemic market-driven customers, which puts the company arguably in a more advantageous position. However, according to the survey, Smith's positive mood is fairly evenly shared by both consumer-centric and business-centric publishers.

With some difficult months still ahead, Bloomberg Media and others are cautiously watching the ongoing public health crisis, fueled by the growing prospect of widespread vaccine adoption.

According to the Adweek survey, 32% of business-oriented publishers expect their sales to grow by more than 30% in the next year. In the meantime, 43% of their consumer-oriented colleagues are forecasting sales growth between 10% and 20% for the year 2021. Overall, 71% of the publishers expect positive financial growth for 2021.

Greater scope for virtual events

Nine in ten respondents said that live events, which made up a significant portion of the revenues of many media companies prior to the pandemic, will be on hold for at least the next six months. Most people expect a gradual return to personal programming starting July 2021.

Despite a flooded market and commercialization concerns, media companies will continue to leverage virtual events for higher margins, a lower cost base, greater reach and an easier way to pull in megawatt star speakers.

Media companies like The Information extol the virtues of virtual events: Founder and editor Jessica Lessin previously outlined how the editor's loyal community makes it possible to monetize events at a much higher rate than their in-person events, resulting in "more money – more revenue." and far less "brings costs." Therefore, virtual components will always play a role in future events.

The information will include 50 events by the end of the year and tentatively check September for its hybrid virtual and personal format, Lessin said.

Gold rush in first-party data

The screws are tightening in terms of user privacy and data sharing. Companies cannot escape the fact that people are much more aware of what is happening to their data. "The penalties will come," said Jeff Litvak, CEO of Adweek, at Elevate: Publishing. "There wasn't much action [during the pandemic], but we can expect more. Every business needs to know what's going on in Prop 24 [California's recently passed consumer law], what data we can collect, and how to share it."

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