2020 was disrupted by a deadly virus, shrinking budgets, nonstop work and misinformation, challenging even the most well-established media organizations. Thankfully, change is on the horizon. 

Media companies that have powered through this chaotic and unpredictable period are now well-positioned to embrace a brighter future.

“While the pandemic has not changed where the industry was heading, it has cut the time to get there from years to months, with the virus rapidly accelerating trends like a move to digital and working from home,” two writers state on FIPP’s website. “And even though such quick transformation has come as a shock to publishers, it presents plenty of opportunities to bounce back strongly in 2021.”

Industry leaders must now take a step back to identify and take hold of new opportunities to succeed and get excited in this strange, new world. 

To get started, here are four reasons why the year ahead will help to revive your sense of optimism in the future of your business.

Benefiting From Larger Audiences

Due to the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and U.S. election, media organizations saw their digital audiences climb in size throughout 2020. 

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center even revealed that digital news consumers now prefer catching up on the news by visiting media websites directly. 

Entertainment-focused media companies, like Netflix, also saw their audiences increase last year as more people sought to escape from reality and stay busy at home.

Between the internet users looking for trustworthy news coverage and those seeking entertainment, media organizations have larger audiences to nurture and monetize. And companies that can prove their ongoing value this year will benefit from sustainable reader revenue.

More specifically, the coming months will be an opportunity for media companies to engage and convert their visitors into long-term, profitable brand supporters.

The End of Trump’s Reign

Media companies have a love-hate relationship with Trump. On the one hand, the past four years and the 2020 presidential election were extremely eventful thanks to Trump, which made for excellent news content and led to a boom in news subscriptions. And yet, Trump popularized the belief that media promotes fake news and reduced trust in media. 

“The last four years have been marked by a deliberate and systemic attack on the press by the president of the United States,” explains Gabriel Escobar, editor and senior vice president of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It has — I suspect — contributed to the lack of trust in journalism which was not great to begin with.”

The transition to Biden’s presidency means that news media companies can finally begin rebuilding their relationships with audiences, restoring trust in the news.

The Rise of First-Party Data

Anyone who deals with audience data will know that third-party cookies are crumbling, triggering an industry-wide shift from third-party to first-party data strategies. 

However, the elimination of third-party cookie usage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

First-party cookies allow media companies to learn more about their audience members and personalize experiences directly on their websites or apps.

In fact, Kayleigh Barber, a senior reporter at Digiday, highlights how Future plc “has seen a range of 50-70% better performance on campaigns that use its first-party audience segment data than campaigns that rely on third-party data.” 

By refocusing on first-party data, media companies can understand the identities, habits and preferences of their digital community members and serve them better in the future.

Moving Toward Virtual Events

Virtual events have completely replaced in-person events over the last few months. Gradually, media leaders have discovered that virtual events are cheaper and easier to organize, have no attendee limits and lend themselves better to interactive discussion sessions. 

“As we enter 2021, the era of virtual events — even in a post-pandemic world — is here to stay, at least as one way for news organizations to hold these gatherings,” says Rick Berke, the co-founder and editor of Stat, a news media company. 

It’s clear that even in-person events in the future will need to be supported with virtual elements to maximize attendee engagement. 

Although recent months have created a series of hurdles for media companies to jump over, organizations that have survived until this point are stronger than ever. Media leaders can now look forward to forging strong connections to their audiences with their newfound knowledge in the year ahead. 

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