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Future of Media: Amid cuts ravenous industries eye Facebook spend

The Drum's senior reporter and media correspondent John McCarthy rounds up the latest media trends and developments. Also available in your inbox every Thursday as The Drum's Future of Media email briefing. Sign up here.

This is an extract from The Drum's Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you'd like it your inbox once a week.

Welcome to The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. Media reporter John McCarthy here. We are slowly leaving the oven and entering the fire. As *some* nations get a grip on the spread of Covid-19 and economies start opening up, there is some cause for optimism. But we’re unlikely to be through the worst yet – there’s an impending financial crisis looming – and the media’s showing some real signs of vulnerability.

More cuts

This week, 70 cuts were made at the BBC’s news team and 180 (of 250 overall) at The Guardian, which before the pandemic was in profit and realising its open access journalism dream. US-based Poynter’s maintaining a LONG list of casualties. At a time when the media is most critical, the money’s not there. And that’s what brought me onto this week’s thought experiment…

Imagine there’s no Facebook?

Where would the media spend go? More than 1,000 advertisers have pulled spend from Facebook this month as part of a mass boycott over its content policies. Let's imagine for a moment that this movement gains greater momentum; that SMEs, publishers and 2.6 billion users follow suit. If marketers were to make their temporary boycott a lasting one, where would they spend their money instead?

In the first quarter of 2020, Facebook's ad revenue stood at $17.44bn. With this quarterly pocket change, SpaceX could launch 306 Falcon 9 vessels into space. Or combined with its Q4 2019 ad revenue, Facebook could just buy SpaceX. For the same sum, it could snaffle up both Slack and WeWork and reinvent the modern workplace. So great is the quarterly ad revenue that flows into Facebook that a third of it ($5bn) could reportedly wipe out African hunger for a while.

I spoke to media experts to see where the money would go – Teads, Ozone Project and academic-edited title The Conversation were swinging for quality media… but in all probability the cash would be diverted to Google and YouTube.

It was a fun follow up to Sam Scott’s weekly Promotional Fix column explaining why this Facebook boycott is different. “Advertisers are applying greater scrutiny to numbers and performance data.” They’re no longer content to assume Facebook should be in their media plan.

Cinema instead

Maybe the money goes to one of the hardest-hit media – cinema. Stephen Lepitak talked to the UK’s top stakeholders in the industry about their return. For brand storytelling, little beats the immersive cinema – but is anyone really in a rush to sit in the dark, watching a TV in a potentially crowded space?

TV rallies

Speaking of TV, for the first time ever, major UK TV channels ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC came together to broadcast a simultaneous message across their collective 21 channels. It was quite the spot and a strong message of unity from an industry that goes above and beyond in lockdown.

Consumer behaviour

Over in the US, Nielsen shared how consumer behaviour has weirdly converged. Its eagle-eye view has never seen anything like it.

OOH, Good News

And finally, a tiny little relief, in the decimated out of home space, at least mural painting thrived. It all started with some community painting.

Well, that’s this week’s round-up, if you missed last week’s, I’ve summarised the findings here.

Anyway, that's all for this week. If you've anything to share, a tip, a correction, a complaint, or if you just want to chat, you can get me at or @johngeemccarthy on Twitter.


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