2021 Asia-Pacific Media Landscape Outlook
The media industry saw a challenging 2020, from working on a relentless COVID-19 news cycle, declining print revenue to a shift in media consumption habits. What are the upcoming trends and challenges that will define the media industry in 2021? PR Newswire’s Audience Development Team, which operates from 9 markets across APAC, charts out what lies ahead for the media industry in each market.
The media in Australia will face two challenges in 2021 – the likely return of live events and managing a new paradigm of workplace operations, according to Tony Thomas, deputy managing editor of The Daily Telegraph. Live events should see increased advertising as organizations try to get the word out that they are back on and ready for business. The chances of media partnerships will grow with this development.
Some closely watched events include the Olympic Games in Tokyo and how it transpires given the developing COVID-19 situation around the world, and how the football season in Australia will unfold amid crowd control measures. Within media companies, video conferencing will still be a norm as they continue to apply social distancing as a constant and adapt to the change in processes from external partners as well.
2. Hong Kong
If the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong does not improve this year, it will become more challenging for media outlets to survive in a competitive space. In order to sustain, some media outlets have branched out to alternative sources of revenue like starting e-commerce businesses to sell products on their platforms. A couple of media outlets in Hong Kong have developed such businesses to supplement their publishing revenue. One notable example is the leading local newspaper, Ming Pao Daily’s e-commerce platform, Power Up. The site sells a wide range of lifestyle products, which are incorporated into relevant articles by the editorial team.
With reduced revenue and mounting commercial concerns, frontline reporters are worried that there aren’t sufficient time and resources to conduct in-depth reports and interviews. Instead of working on comprehensive reports, they will focus more on hot and trending topics that readers care about.
One of the key agenda of the Malaysian media industry in 2021 is to help businesses promote their digital transformation plans. This becomes more crucial as brands set out to reinvent themselves to take on the post-crisis world.
Through adopting and improving Industry 4.0 technologies such as fintech, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), companies can future proof their businesses. This is part of the government‘s Malaysia 5.0 digital transformation plans to be the “Heart of Digital ASEAN”. With digital technologies amalgamated into all sectors of its economy, Malaysia hopes to become the regional digital hub for companies looking to tap into ASEAN’s digital future.
With this development, the media will be keen to feature stories from brands that have adapted to digital tools and platforms as a catalyst to achieve their business goals and venture to new opportunities.
Another hot topic on the media’s agenda this year is the “mass customization” of businesses – how they are leveraging data to attract their prospects and business partners. Now, more than ever, brands need to predict what consumers are thinking and planning to do so that they will be ready when consumers start looking out again once “normalcy” resumes after the pandemic.
Riding on the momentum of change in the media industry in 2020, consumers and advertisers are moving more rapidly to digital channels. Consumers expect greater value and better customer experience from spending time on the platform, while advertisers expect more revenue to be generated.
With increasing competition among media outlets, access to user data is the key to success. The business model has given rise to consumer-creators and hybrid monetization opportunities. As a result, regulators are increasingly paying close attention to platforms that distribute media content.
According to online show #OurNewsroom by IDN Times, a digital media outlet targeted at millennials, media leaders in Indonesia admitted that the pandemic has sparked the rapid growth of innovation on digital platforms. This will continue this year or after the pandemic has subsided.
Traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television will have to think of new models of business and production that are more tech and cost-savvy. Digital adoption is changing information consumption patterns rapidly and paid content will be an important part of the media’s survival plans going forward.
The digital media space will continue to grow this year. Information consumption over digital platforms has risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic as most consumers have been working remotely last year.
Even major media players need to adapt. In November 2020, media giant Singapore Press Holdings stated that it will invest in the transformation of its media business. Last year, the group recorded a decline in both print advertising and print subscription revenue. The group’s print newspaper circulation dropped by 20% year-on-year, while digital circulation has grown 55.6%.
This has led to media companies boosting their digital presence to increase engagement with audiences. Last year, The Straits Times launched its Facebook Live series, The Big Story that features a roundup of the top news headlines for the day. Viewers can also leave questions and comments during the live stream. TODAY, an online news website that is targeted at millennials launched its live webinar series on Instagram, as part of its rebranding campaign to mark its 20th anniversary in 2020. The Instagram live webinar series touches on societal issues such as activism, cyber vigilantism, gender equality and mental health.
6. South Korea
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 workflow. 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.
News outlets will continue to push ahead in their digital transformation journey despite challenges, such as declining viewership of traditional media, increasing competition from online sites and slimmer profit margins from traditional advertising.
This year, two media trends will emerge. Firstly, more media companies will provide online live-streaming platforms and podcasts that offer innovative narrative and interactive experiences, so content becomes more attractive to viewers. Through sponsorships, product placement and online advertising, media companies can receive additional sources of revenue. Key examples include news portal ETToday’s popular online streaming programmes such as cooking competition, CooKing and singing talent show, Jungle Voice.
Secondly, more media outlets will operate on a news subscription model. The audience can customize content that they are more interested in receiving. For example, Apple Daily recently started its paid subscription service, Goodest Channel, which offers more in-depth news, exclusive interviews and feature stories. It also has documentaries and financial investment news to attract more viewers.
However, adopting a subscription model comes with its challenges. According to McKinsey and BCG, when companies adopt subscription models, the cost will skyrocket during the first six months at least. If operations are not on track, media outlets and shareholders will feel the pressure in getting revenue.
Following Vietnam’s National Press Development and Management Plan that was implemented last March, the Ministry of Information and Communications has licensed 18 newspapers to be transformed into in-depth magazines. This shows that traditional local media outlets have shifted their focus from being battling with social media to be the first to report to gaining the audience’s trust.
Ho Quang Loi, Vice President of Vietnam Journalists Association, said “For quite a while, the press has been racing to be the first to report, but in this digital age, being the first is not the most important for the press, because that social media can take up that role. Instead, the press needs to focus on in-depth articles and analysis to persuade readers with reliable information.”
On the social media front, video-sharing app Tik Tok will continue to rise to become a popular short video platform for Gen Z and Gen Y. The Ministry of Health took advantage of this fact and launched its #happyathome (#onhavanvui) TikTok campaign during the lockdown period last year. The campaign featured snappy videos on handwashing, mask-wearing and social-distancing measures.
Look out for our series of 2021 APAC Media Landscape blog articles in the coming months for an overview of media developments in key markets across the region.
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