Diversification is rife these days and is indicative of the pace (and necessity) of change within the UK media landscape. Back in May News UK announced the launch of Times Radio – a national digital-only station which officially launched at the end of June, borne out of a collaboration between The Times, Sunday Times and Wireless – and there are numerous other examples of confident acquisition and evolution from UK media owners and agencies in recent years.
Wireless – the company behind talkSPORT, talkRADIO and Virgin Radio UK – was acquired by News UK in 2016, giving the venerable print publisher a foothold in the burgeoning speech radio and podcasting space, a clear indication of their ambitions outside their print ‘comfort zone’.
2018 saw a major play by UK radio powerhouse Global (who hold circa 50% of the UK commercial radio market), with the acquisition of Exterion Media coming shortly after their purchase of Primesight and Outdoor Plus. Almost overnight the new player in town – Global Outdoor – became a serious rival to market leader JC Decaux, commanding around 35% of UK OOH market share and opening new opportunities for Global in Europe.
In a similar move (albeit on a smaller scale), DC Thomson – owner and publisher of, amongst others, the Beano, Dundee Courier and Aberdeen Press & Journal – swooped to purchase Kingdom FM and Original 106 in March last year, adding these regional ‘heartland’ stations to the previously acquired Wave FM, swiftly making them the largest Scottish-owned radio group in the process.
These are just a few examples of the type of deals that are becoming increasingly commonplace as media businesses vie for greater reach, market share and new and lucrative revenue streams across a variety of different media touchpoints. As print circulations dwindle, it’s relatively easy to understand why forward-thinking print publishers and news brands want – and need – to expand and diversify their respective offerings, but in reality all progressive, agile businesses should have one eye on transition and evolution; adapting and changing to meet the demands of consumers and stakeholders in order to remain relevant.
Lest we forget about the elephant in the room in 2020, the pace of change surrounding many business practices will undoubtedly be significantly affected by this year’s cataclysmic events – and the fallout that awaits us all in the months (and years) to come. Tried and trusted approaches to working and business may need to be reconfigured or entirely replaced as we all strive to regroup, rebuild and future-proof our businesses in the wake of the pandemic. Flexible/ remote working, the role of the office, AI and automation, client relationships, meeting protocol and many other fundamental elements of our working lives may be part of a playbook that ultimately gets torn up, with many pages rewritten anew.
And it’s not just media owners that have had to rethink growth strategy and seek new opportunities in recent times. In agency land, client acquisition and retention has become increasingly competitive.
One key area where Space & Time has striven to create opportunities and step away from the confines of the traditional media shop is in the data and insights space. In 2018 our Insights team was created to bolster our service offering and deliver additional benefits for new and existing clients – informing planning and eking out new business opportunities through the use of cutting-edge consumer and media research, helping businesses identify and deploy the right marketing technology and capturing meaningful audience and consumer data to allow actionable insights.
After collecting the coveted Drum Recommends Award for ‘Data’ in 2019 the team shifted focus to the creation of something truly unique in the marketplace. With a proven track record of working with some of the largest and most progressive new homes developers in the UK for over 20 years, Space & Time’s Client Services and Insights teams developed the concept of a consolidated ‘New Homes Index’ – a reliable new homes audience platform built on live analytics and ad platform data.
Incorporating a daily tracker of total web sessions, goal completions and conversions, combined with the ability to visualise any number of dimensions from Google Analytics, this platform gave the agency the ability to explore the many nuances of combined new homes web audiences and to monitor the ebb and flow of paid search, organic, social and display activity. We brought this to market not long after lockdown was announced, at a time when clients and colleagues were practically drowning in an avalanche of content and data from suppliers, news agencies and government bodies. At an extremely challenging juncture our ‘New Homes Index’ reports allowed us to enlighten and reassure our property client base, offering unique first party trend data and shaping recovery strategies.
What value diversification then? Ours is a sector in flux to a far greater degree than most. The scale of fragmentation across media platforms is quickly eroding the distinction between different media channels but, conversely, it’s strengthening the importance of a media brand. If content can be created by anybody and we’re all publishers now, the value and relevance of heritage brands like the Times or the Dundee Courier will be heightened, not diminished. In that context, leveraging these brands over a wider range of channels is at the very least good business, and at most, inevitable. Similarly, you might not expect to book your local press campaigns in the same place as you access award-winning market insight but, these days, perhaps you should.
Ed Hill, Managing Partner at Space & Time, comments “Over the last fifteen years, Space & Time has successfully transitioned from being a chiefly boutique-style media business – focused on buying classified print space within the regional marketplace – to become a digital-first, fully integrated media agency. The success of the business to date demonstrates our capacity for bringing the agility, passion and client service of a smaller firm into a larger arena”.