He got many things right last time
Carl-Johan Bonnier once again predicts the future of the media market
“We spotted the trends, but the speed of the changes took us by surprise. Yet the technical advances we’ve seen so far are only the beginning. Our vision is to constantly take media forward, so we have an extremely exciting time ahead of us.”
That’s how Carl-Johan Bonnier, chairman of Bonnier AB, sums up his view of transformations in the media market. It’s just over five years since he presented his prediction for the media society of the future in this very magazine. Back then he talked about a paradigm shift, with digital advertising soon overtaking advertising in print, and about a media market that would become even more fragmented. He predicted accelerating growth in social media, and that two-year-olds would start surfing the net…
He was right then, but what about now?
Many of us thought he was perhaps going too far, but looking back, we have to admit that Carl-Johan Bonnier was right. When we meet again, the opening question is therefore a given: What do you think is going to happen now?
“Making an analysis is much more difficult today. Technology is advancing so quickly that forecasts are becoming much less certain,” he explains.
It is, however, clear that the fragmentation of the market is set to continue, driven by digital technology that is becoming ever more powerful.
“The expanding range of media products provides advertisers with so many more options.”
PewDiePie and Zoella
In the interview five years ago, Carl-Johan Bonnier said that 25 per cent of all media would soon be produced, edited and consumed on the internet – not by publishers but among friends. The need to be seen, to create something of one’s own and to share one’s experiences were the drivers he highlighted.
While we have no exact figures, it is likely that reality has exceeded that forecast. What has also happened is that many of these ‘peer-to-peer blogs’ have been developed into quite successful businesses. PewDiePie, for example – who describes himself as just a regular 25-year-old guy from Sweden who likes to laugh and make other people laugh – now has the world’s biggest channel on YouTube. Around 39 million fans subscribe to his videos, which are mostly about how he plays computer games with impressive feeling.
Another young YouTube star, Zoella from the UK, made her debut as an author last year. Her book ‘Girl online’ was the bestselling debut book on Amazon ever, far outstripping ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
“I think this is a positive trend. Not least from a democratic point of view, it’s valuable that new opportunities are being created for people to express themselves and reach out to a large audience.”
No flight from news
The idea that the younger generation would shun the news is considered a myth by Carl-Johan Bonnier. In a survey by Pew Research Center, 83 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds state that they ‘enjoy keeping up to date via the news’. Interest in the news has thus remained strong, but the difference is that young people use different media channels.
“The internet means that practically everyone can follow what’s happening all over the world in real time. That is a whole new situation. Facebook, Twitter and similar channels now account for a growing amount of news reporting.”
Personalisation and big data
Personalisation of the media is a trend that will have a major impact on the market. Personally targeted digital services are capturing an increasing share of the audience and thus also of advertising revenues. The personalisation is based on the growing quantity of data that we leave behind in mobile apps, search engines and so on. Companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook know how to handle such ‘big data’ – and the advertisers are flocking to them.
“The more you know about your customers and their behaviour, the greater the impact of the advertising,” states Carl-Johan Bonnier.
Continued cost-cutting for newspapers
So how will the print media as a whole be affected by these trends? Like most commentators, Carl-Johan Bonnier believes publishers’ print business is going to see further shrinkage. Consolidation amongst publishers is continuing and newspapers are being closed or merged in the drive to make cost-savings. To improve their profitability, many daily newspapers have increased their subscription and cover prices, and this is likely to continue.
“Many consumers are prepared to pay a little more for good journalism.”
As regards online newspapers, Carl Johan believes they are – finally – facing a breakthrough in terms of payment models. Since many of a publisher’s resources are shared, this may also be good news for the printed newspapers.
Magazines are under pressure too, but they are felt to hold quite a strong position against the digital competition.
“The quality and feel of the paper is an important part of the reading experience as offered by a magazine. I therefore don’t think magazines are as well suited to digital solutions.”
Paperbacks are hard to beat
In the book market, it has long been said that the e-book is gaining ground, but this advance is proving a slow one in many countries. Most would agree, however, that the e-book’s market share will grow over the long term. When it comes to the future of paperback books, Carl-Johan Bonnier sticks by his positive assessment from five years ago.
“With their low costs, paperbacks remain very hard to beat as a product. I think that will continue to be the case for a long time to come.”
Carl-Johan Bonnier sees Holmen Paper’s product development in the areas of book paper and magazine paper as a positive move, since it can lead to lower production and distribution costs.
“Everyone in the value chain needs to work together to cut costs and thus strengthen the competitiveness of our end products.”
Change takes time
With Bonnier’s broad business portfolio in TV, film, print media, digital media and so on, the Group is well placed to adapt. It may have its roots in print, but Bonnier has begun to implement changes aimed at significantly increasing revenues from new digital media. However, Carl-Johan Bonnier stresses that this process will take a few years.
“Our big newspapers, DN, Expressen and Dagens Industri, have strong positions as paper products and in their digital versions. There is no doubt, though, that our advertising and readership revenues are going to grow fastest on the digital front.”
Business idea continues
Changes may be afoot, but Bonnier’s business idea ‘We create, select and refine a world of knowledge and stories’ will remain valid for a long time yet. “Our business is based on telling really good stories – stories that attract many different types of consumers. And that’s going to continue. But in the future it will be less about mass production, and more about media products specifically tailored to the preferences of the individual. That’s where the challenge and the opportunities lie,” concludes Carl-Johan Bonnier.
The Bonnier Group
Bonnier is a media group with business in TV, daily newspapers, business and trade press, magazines, film, books, radio and digital media. While based in the Nordic countries, it also has significant operations in the USA, Germany, the UK and Eastern Europe. Bonnier employs over 9,000 people in 16 countries.
Bonnier began life as a small-scale book publisher in 1804. 1837 saw the creation of Albert Bonniers Förlag, which soon developed into a leading book publisher, not least of works by now classic Swedish authors such as August Strindberg, Verner von Heidenstam and Selma Lagerlöf. Bonnier remains wholly owned by the Bonnier family, and is being run, as of 2015, by the seventh generation.