The global public relations software industry — which includes services like media monitoring and press release distribution — bounced back from the effects of the pandemic, growing 14.7% to $5.5 billion in 2021, according to a new report.
Driving the increase were spending on social media, press release distribution, and analytics services, read the 150-page report by research firm Burton-Taylor International Consulting, “Media Intelligence and Public Relations Software/Information Global Share & Segment Sizing 2022.”
The report tracks how the big and emerging players are performing, M&A activity, and segment trends.
Vendors surveyed by Burton-Taylor said the pandemic’s impact on their business was waning and that the Ukraine war and other hot-button issues, rather than dampening their business, could benefit them as clients need help monitoring the news more than ever to know what’s being said about them and how to react.
“I have not seen the negative effect that you might imagine with regard to the war,” one unnamed vendor was quoted as saying. “There are going to be some businesses that are doing very well out of this, and some businesses are going to find things much more challenging, and that is also going to apply to individual economies…but I don’t get the feeling that a risk-averse, issues-rich world is one in which we are going so struggle.”
The biggest players, Cision and Meltwater, both grew at a healthy double-digit pace in 2021. But the giants’ market share continued to erode as other players significantly expanded their businesses.
By Burton-Taylor’s measures, the top eight vendors accounted for 32.9% of the market in 2021, down from 33.9% in 2020 and 37.3% in 2019, with a range of narrowly focused vendors capturing the remaining share.
Burton-Taylor singled out players like Apollo Global Management-owned Intrado, which rebranded as Notified; Germany’s Unicepta; and Dubai-based Carma as growing fast.
“The shift reflects continued strong growth by specialized social media providers, as well as lively performance by niche Media Intelligence solution suppliers,” read the report.
It also comes at a time of increased investor interest in PR tech, with VC and private equity firms pouring millions into companies like Propel and Signal AI.
Here are the report’s top takeaways:
- Social media services are driving the industry. Social media services make up the industry’s biggest segment, especially in the US, and were also by far its biggest driver in 2021. They grew 25% to $2.7 billion as more kinds of companies see social media as critical to their businesses. The biggest providers were Salesforce, Sprinklr, and Hootsuite, but Cision and Meltwater are making moves to expand in that area as well.
- Press release distribution, other areas also showed gains. The press release distribution business dominated by Cision, Business Wire, and GlobalNewswire bounced back from a pandemic-related decline, growing revenue 11.7% in 2021.
Media analysis grew 7.5% as companies sought help staying on top of the news in challenging times. Cision is by far the biggest player, but Muck Rack, Dow Jones Factiva, and Streem have broadened their analysis products over the last year.
Tools to help companies find and interact with journalists and influencers grew 4.8%, and while Cision and Meltwater remain the biggest players, they face fierce competition from smaller companies like Notified, Access Intelligence, Muck Rack, Innodata’s Agility PR Solutions, Roxhill Media, and Propel.
- The industry giants’ share is under attack. It was a healthy year for the big players, which all showed double-digit revenue growth. Platinum Equity-owned Cision grew revenue 14% to $837 million, driven by its press release distribution business and acquisition of UK social media monitoring company Brandwatch.
Rumors have long swirled that Cision would spin off its newswire business, and Burton-Taylor quoted unnamed vendors as saying Cision has struggled to integrate the many acquisitions it’s made over the years.
In terms of market share, Cision and Meltwater were the biggest players, but lost slight share over 2020, Cision at 15.2% and Meltwater at 7.3%. Third-place Berkshire Hathaway’s Business Wire had a share of 2.4%.
No. 2 player Meltwater grew revenue 12% and remained the leader in media monitoring and a significant player in social media services. It acquired four companies to expand into new geographies and segments. Business Wire revenue grew 12% on strength in its press release distribution business following pandemic-driven declines.
- Smaller players are positioning themselves to take on the big ones. In particular, Apollo Global Management-owned Intrado, which has rebranded as Notified, grew about 11% on its press release distribution and media monitoring business, putting it close behind Business Wire and passing Kantar, whose business declined ahead of being acquired.
Burton-Taylor also noted UK-based Access Intelligence, which grew 73% on the acquisition of Australian firm Isentia. Unicepta, a Germany-based provider of media monitoring and analysis services, grew 10% in revenue and has its sights set on large global clients and analytics, putting it in more direct competition with Cision.
The report also calls out as challenger companies two regional firms that are expanding outside their markets: Dubai-based Carma, a digital insights and engagement company that grew 20% as it makes inroads in Asia; and Denmark’s Infomedia, a media monitoring and analytics company that’s broadening to other Nordic markets.