A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

“Will the money be invested in growth capital to kickstart a new generation of journalism entrepreneurs? Or will it be used to buy up struggling newsrooms that can be stripped for parts and left to ruin?”

I’m going to use three clichés to predict that we’ll see greater consolidation and a contracting media ecosystem in 2021.

Cliché No. 1: Due to Covid-19, [insert industry here] has experienced five years’ worth of innovation in nine months.

If there were any publishers remaining still resistant to digital transformation, the pandemic will have smashed through those barriers. Whether it was publishing schedules and distribution, internal communication, or even reporting, newsrooms have had to innovate in real-time, and as a result, those that survive the pandemic will be more agile and innovative than ever.

Those media companies able to weather the pandemic with healthy books will be ready to spend on acquiring the technology and hiring the talent they now recognize they need in a digital world. Those that can’t won’t survive the year.

Cliché No. 2: Investors are sitting on a lot of dry powder.

Private-equity firms have spent years building up a record pile of unspent investor money — $1.45 trillion as of June 2020, according to data provider Preqin. Add in low borrowing rates and a frothy stock market for tech stocks and, well, that leaves a lot of money waiting to be spent on new opportunities and distressed assets.

Whether this will be a good-news story for journalists is an open question. Will the money be invested in growth capital to kickstart a new generation of journalism entrepreneurs? Or will it be used to buy up struggling newsrooms that can be stripped for parts and left to ruin?

Either way, the winners will be those publishers who can attract capital and use it to grow through beefing up their newsrooms, spending on paid acquisition, or acquiring and investing in startups.

Cliché No. 3: Every action results in an equal counter-reaction.

Whether through partisanship, business model, or platform, there’s no question that we are living through a period of intense media fragmentation. But as the late Clayton M. Christensen portended, technology creates opportunities for sectors to go from modularity to interdependence and back again.

It could be as simple as Substack creating a subscription product allowing readers to subscribe to their five favorite newsletters; a bunch of niche publications merging to grow their audience; or large-scale newspaper or digital media outlets coming together to compete at scale. (We’ve already seen this start to happen with BuzzFeed/Huffington Post and GateHouse/Gannett.)

It may sound cliché, but we should expect a wave of consolidation in the media industry as those companies who have innovated during the pandemic, have cash on hand, and recognize operational efficiencies at scale prepare for a post-lockdown world. Buckle up for a year of change.

David Skok is founder and CEO of The Logic.

I’m going to use three clichés to predict that we’ll see greater consolidation and a contracting media ecosystem in 2021.

Cliché No. 1: Due to Covid-19, [insert industry here] has experienced five years’ worth of innovation in nine months.

If there were any publishers remaining still resistant to digital transformation, the pandemic will have smashed through those barriers. Whether it was publishing schedules and distribution, internal communication, or even reporting, newsrooms have had to innovate in real-time, and as a result, those that survive the pandemic will be more agile and innovative than ever.

Those media companies able to weather the pandemic with healthy books will be ready to spend on acquiring the technology and hiring the talent they now recognize they need in a digital world. Those that can’t won’t survive the year.

Cliché No. 2: Investors are sitting on a lot of dry powder.

Private-equity firms have spent years building up a record pile of unspent investor money — $1.45 trillion as of June 2020, according to data provider Preqin. Add in low borrowing rates and a frothy stock market for tech stocks and, well, that leaves a lot of money waiting to be spent on new opportunities and distressed assets.

Whether this will be a good-news story for journalists is an open question. Will the money be invested in growth capital to kickstart a new generation of journalism entrepreneurs? Or will it be used to buy up struggling newsrooms that can be stripped for parts and left to ruin?

Either way, the winners will be those publishers who can attract capital and use it to grow through beefing up their newsrooms, spending on paid acquisition, or acquiring and investing in startups.

Cliché No. 3: Every action results in an equal counter-reaction.

Whether through partisanship, business model, or platform, there’s no question that we are living through a period of intense media fragmentation. But as the late Clayton M. Christensen portended, technology creates opportunities for sectors to go from modularity to interdependence and back again.

It could be as simple as Substack creating a subscription product allowing readers to subscribe to their five favorite newsletters; a bunch of niche publications merging to grow their audience; or large-scale newspaper or digital media outlets coming together to compete at scale. (We’ve already seen this start to happen with BuzzFeed/Huffington Post and GateHouse/Gannett.)

It may sound cliché, but we should expect a wave of consolidation in the media industry as those companies who have innovated during the pandemic, have cash on hand, and recognize operational efficiencies at scale prepare for a post-lockdown world. Buckle up for a year of change.

David Skok is founder and CEO of The Logic.

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