Ian Whittaker has served as head of European media research at investment bank Liberum Capital in London for the past eight years. He’s had a lifelong passion for media, and in his 17-year career in the sector, he’s emerged as a leading authority on the UK broadcasting space and the latest digital and technology trends such as social media and digital advertising.
Before that he worked as a senior media analyst for UBS Investment Bank and as the equity research analyst for Merrill Lynch and has also provided media analysis on leading UK property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.
However; the highlight of his career was winning the Analyst of the Year award in 2014 when he was up against some tough competition.
“Any analyst covering any sector is eligible so it was an honour and privilege to have been given the award, as well as to have been nominated three times”, he said.
It’s no secret that over the last 30 years the internet has played a significant role in reshaping the media and digital sector. According to Whittaker, the biggest shift has been in how businesses use advertising and view the media sector.
“The most obvious change in the media sector is the emergence of online and both the direct impact this has had. For example, advertising money has shifted to online and thus impacts several business models and indirectly allows new business models to emerge.”
“A more subtle change is the realisation in media that nothing is easy. When I started covering the sector, certain sectors were seen as easy cash cow generators with few threats. Nobody takes that attitude in media anymore.”
The struggle that Whittaker is referring to can be seen in the business models of most global news media outlets.
For example, according to research the Pew Research Centre in the US, 2015 could be considered a ‘recession year’ for newspapers. Weekday circulation of print titles “fell 7% and Sunday circulation fell 4%, both showing their greatest declines since 2010”.
Pew’s latest report titled State of the News Media in 2016 also paints a bleak picture for media advertising revenue in the US.
“At the same time, advertising revenue experienced its greatest drop since 2009, falling nearly 8% from 2014 to 2015. Fully one-fourth of advertising revenue now comes from digital advertising, but not because of growth in that area: Digital advertising revenue fell 2% in 2015. It’s just that non-digital advertising revenue fell more, dropping 10% in 2015”
It’s clear to see that Whittaker is correct in saying that the media is no longer “an easy cash cow”. The online recruitment space however is booming thanks to the change in the digital sector. This is what Whittaker, along with other online industry experts, will be speaking about at the highly anticipated Global Online Classifieds Summit in Miami this June.
“I will be looking at the opportunities in the online portals space”, he said.
“Ironically, many of the features of the space replicate those of the old classified directories businesses, such as those with a market leading position enjoy very significant barriers to entry. But there is still much growth left in the market and the opportunity of moving into adjacent markets is potentially huge.”