The Jobs Outlook for Small D.C. Media and Communications Businesses before, during, and after the Pandemic

The media and communications sector of D.C. has always been a cornerstone of the politically driven U.S. capitol. Professions in this sector range from journalists to social media coordinators to public relations managers to advertisers and marketers.  Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dynamic impact on this industry, affecting small, medium, and large organizations in different ways.  Some larger organizations in this field have experienced a major boom due to the need for perpetual communication about the pandemic. At the same time, many smaller companies have suffered, but are ready to bounce back.

DCs Media Market

Before the pandemic

Even before the pandemic, traditional news outlets were struggling. The easy access to online news had already forced many smaller print news organizations to close. Since most of these publications rely heavily on advertising revenues to survive, the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse. Retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment facilities were forced to close, gouging these organizations’ advertising incomes. Online media and communications organizations were in better shape prior to the pandemic; however, they were also hit hard by the local and national shutdowns.

During the pandemic

More than 43 percent of small businesses in D.C. either closed temporarily or permanently during the COVID-19 pandemic. Concurrently small business revenues declined by more than 61 percent. The media and communications industry was not hit as hard as some other industries due to its online presence and the relative ease with which employees were able to switch to working from home. In fact, digital media experienced quite the boon when lockdowns left people at home with their digital devices and an ongoing need to know.  

However, new problems emerged, such as security issues that arose from that very transition. The U.S. Communications Sector Coordinating Council reports an exponential increase in cyber-attacks and information leaks during 2020. Smaller media and communications businesses were hit especially hard by these trends due to their inability to afford top level security measures.

Post-pandemic outlook and strategies

The media and communications industry will continue to transform, as it was already doing prior to the pandemic. The technology skills required to work in this industry are getting more complex all the time.   The increase in digital consumption is expected to carry on, as is the fragmentation of the sector in terms of both service provision and employment. Many traditional communications organizations are shifting their primary source of income from advertising revenue to more creative pursuits such as providing live internet content. If anything, the pandemic spurred more small communications companies mired in tradition to recognize the dire need for new business models.  

Media and communications organizations have always been naturally drawn to D.C. due to the hefty presence of political leaders and high-profile events. This has not changed, and it is not expected to change any time soon. What is changing is the manner in which smaller business in this industry are planning their post-pandemic futures.

Keeping people both informed and entertained will remain the primary goal of this industry, however, the methods of achieving those goals post-pandemic is expected to see major changes. For example, as over-the-top (OTT) media service continue bypass broadcast, cable, and satellite platforms, the nature of job opportunities in the industry will continue to evolve as well.

In addition, despite some security issues, many organizations in the media and communications sector are planning to allow employees to work remotely on an ongoing basis, for at least part of the week. The pandemic quelled many fears that allowing employees to work from home would result in lackluster production. In fact, a Stanford University study consisting of 16,000 workers revealed that working from home increases productivity by 13 percent.

Bouncing back from COVID-19 will definitely be easier for some industries than others. Since the media and communications industry was already veering off in many different directions prior to the pandemic, the behavioral changes that occurred during the pandemic were not as jolting as they could have been. On the whole, the outlook seems positive for small businesses in D.C. that are focusing on media and communications, as long as they continue to navigate the changing waters with conviction.

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