The media landscape has had to jump through a few hoops recently. With the continuous development of digital media, journalism and entertainment mediums have had to modernise and grow alongside it. However, as much as this industry has had to change in the past few years, it is now also the trendsetter for other industries, as well as for society as a whole.

As we noted in a previous media update article, titled Three trends that are shaping the media industry, the media industry has seen a development in niche interests as like-minded people connect using the Internet. Furthermore, media intelligence has continued to develop as data becomes more of a commodity. People are also changing the way in which they consume content as a consequence of the rising metaverse and video-based content.

We also noted in another media update article, titled How the media industry has changed in 2021, that the implementation of the POPI Act has changed the way that journalism processes personal information.

But what else has trended this year in the media? Saddle up, because media update’s Lara Smit is taking you on a retrospective journey of 2021’s top three media trends. Let’s embark!

1. Streaming is steaming!

Streaming — talk about a steaming hot trend! This year, we’ve seen more and more people contemplate whether streaming is a better option than cable television. With 5.11 million active streaming users in Africa in 2021, and a predicted total of 15.06 million in 2026, it seems as though streaming is quickly becoming the new entertainment preference of many. And with the smorgasbord of streaming platforms that South Africans have at their disposal, who can blame them?

The streaming team is also ever-increasing as we have seen the SA debut of a new streaming platform called BritBox. This is an extremely niche streaming service that offers exclusively British series and movies. And by June 2022 (we hope), another one of the streaming royals, Disney Plus, will be joining our streaming scene. How exciting?

Amongst the new faces, we’re also seeing some familiar ones as the “OG’s” of SA television try to keep up with the times. The South African Broadcasting Corporation and now have their own streaming platforms! Late in 2020, the corporation partnered with the telecommunications company Telkom to create TelkomOne. Then in 2021, announced the release of their new streaming service e-Video-On-Demand (e-VOD). 

Another interesting thing that we’ve seen this year with streaming is Disney’s premier access platform. This feature allows Disney Plus subscribers to pay and watch movies before they are released on the platform at large. This is sometimes on the same day that the movie launched in cinemas. It was first set in motion with the premiere of Mulan in 2020 and has become increasingly popular in 2021 with the release of movies like Cruella, Black Widow and Raya the Last Dragon — to name a few.  With the option of having brand new Disney movies at their disposal, South African Disney fans definitely have something to look forward to in 2022!

2. Podcasts get a seat at the mainstream table

The popularity of podcasts has been on a steady incline for many years. They have served as an excellent tool for brands, industry experts and researchers. But recently, podcasts have become a serious player in mainstream media! Why?

One of the reasons could be because more people are seeing them for their entertainment value. For example, just about every second person is aware of ex UFC commentator and Fear Factor host Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. With about 1 744 episodes under his belt, Joe Rogan is, according to The New York Times, “one of the most consumed media products on the planet”. And with Spotify purchasing the podcast for a cool $100-million, they’re certainly not wrong!

We also see podcasts diving deeper into the entertainment field with tv-show based podcasts. And examples of these are seen with the podcast developed for the popular Netflix show The Crown, which dives deeper into the royal drama series. The popular MTV tv show Catfish has also released its own podcast discussing the troubled world of cyber dating. 

Furthermore, there aren’t just podcasts based off of shows. No. There are also shows inspired by podcasts! How interesting is that? We see this with the Amazon show Homecoming which was inspired by a scripted podcast released by Gimlet Media

3. Ye old tale of print versus digital

In the media, the debate about print versus digital is just about as popular as the nature versus nurture debate amongst psychologists. But 2021 has shown a massive decline in African print media as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving little hope for print lovers. Reports like the Reuters Digital News Report 2021 show the decline that large media houses have been experiencing recently. 

The statistics provided by this report show that 73% of surveyed people source their news from the Internet. Furthermore, the report shows that newspaper circulation has decreased by at least 40%. 

However, as the Mail and Guardian notes, many media houses have created sustainable business models as a result of the print decline and more people are subscribing to their online platforms. For example, News24 managed to bring in 31 000 paying subscribers within nine months.  

Unfortunately, these numbers do show the rapid growth of online media at the expense of print media. But what the report also shows is that misinformation is higher than ever in Africa and sitting at 74% as a result of online-sourced information. So, there is still hope for other media sources as the representatives of truth in our media landscape.
Without further ado (and just in time for Christmas), that’s a wrap of 2021’s media trends!

What other media trends have you noticed in 2021? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about the media landscape? Then make sure you read our article The current media landscape in South Africa: Q&A with Jacques du Bruyn
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy