2020 South Korea Media Landscape Highlights
The COVID-19 outbreak has left a significant impact on almost every industry and the Korean media industry was no exception. According to a 2020 Media Report by Korea Press Foundation, 84.2% of newspaper and magazine businesses said they are experiencing a state of financial crisis. The situation is even more dire for daily and weekly newspapers and they have been suffering a dramatic dip in advertising revenue from last year.
In addition to that, the Korean media is also grappling with low credibility rates among local audiences. According to the Digital News Report 2020 by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, trust levels in local news in South Korea are amongst the lowest in the world. Only 21% of audiences said that they trust the news in general. The report also showed that audiences in South Korea have one of the lowest-rated attitudes towards their country’s COVID-19 news coverage – 57% of them agreed that the media has helped to explain what they can do during the pandemic.
On the other hand, one positive industry development is The New York Times’s relocation to Seoul this year. The renowned news organization will be moving its digital news operations from Hong Kong to Seoul, after concerns over the implications of a sweeping national security law passed by China last June. The New York Times chose South Korea to be its regional hub due to the country’s friendliness to foreign business, its independent press and central role in several major Asian news stories.
2020 Key Developments
- People are spending more time at home due to COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an increased amount of media consumption. According to various domestic research, more than 69% of people in South Korea said they spend more time reading news than before.
- Viewership on traditional media like print and radio has been on the decline for years, and COVID-19 has certainly expedited this process. However, TV viewership increased last year. Lockdown measures have brought about a surge in the number of television views. Video-on-Demand streaming services have seen a major spike in viewership, while live television programmes also became more popular due to the constant demand for up-to-date news.
- In response to the prevalence of cyberbullying and concerns about the mental well-being of celebrities, Naver, South Kore’s top web portal service operator, decided to remove the comment feature in its entertainment news section.
- In order to deliver more targeted and relevant news, Naver customized the “Most-viewed news articles” list on its mobile app to the preferences of its users. Previously, the list was standardized to all users. Naver has adopted an artificial intelligence algorithm to select the types of news articles that are shown to users.
New Key Media Outlets
Here are some note-worthy Korean media outlets that were launched last year:
Hankyung Bio Insight, the first online and offline biotech magazine in South Korea, was launched last October. Run by South Korea’s top media company, Hankyung Media Group, Hankyung Bio Insight covers the latest biotech news and interviews.
Korea Policy News has been re-launched as Good Morning Economy in October 2020. Previously, it was a news website that covers government affairs. Korea Policy News now had a print edition and has widened its coverage to economy and business news.
The Korea Economic Daily Global Edition (KED Global) is another new media outlet launched by Hankyung Media Group in 2020. KED Global is a digital media platform that provides news and analysis on Korean companies, industries, and financial markets in 7 languages.
Media outlets in South Korea are experiencing a decline in newspaper circulation and are struggling to develop new revenue streams. An emerging solution that will be much talked-about this year will be the introduction of paid content services.
This is, however, not a new initiative. Leading daily Chosun Ilbo has experimented with premium online services that offered exclusive news in 2013. However, it was not successful due to the lack of quality content and the lack of perceived value from readers due to the influx of free news and information from other news platforms.
This year, more media companies will continue to experiment with paid content in order to find new revenue streams. Naver, the biggest search engine in South Korea, will launch its paid content subscription service later this year. The service aggregates news from major Korean newspapers such as Chosun Ilbo and Korea Joongang Daily. Kakao Talk, the most popular mobile instant messaging app in the country, is planning to launch its paid content subscription service later this year.
The effects of the pandemic have accelerated digital transformation across traditional media and will continue to do so this year. The traditional newspaper industry has been changing to a digital-first approach, most major print and broadcast news outlets now maintain digital versions. This digital innovation will continue to reshape the media industry in South Korea in 2021.
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This is the 4th instalment of PR Newswire’s 2020 Asia-Pacific Media Landscape series. Our Audience Development team, which is based in 9 markets in APAC, gives an overview of media developments across the region.
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