Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Media Predictions & the Speed of Change + One Prediction We Did Not Get Completely Right. Ok, More than Not Right

In my interview with Wayne Hurlbert of Blog Business Success Radio, which airs -- ok, which runs -- on BlogTalkRadio, we talked a lot about media predictions and trends, based on my original blog post, Top 14+ Media Trends for 2009, posted Jan. 9, 2009. The predictions are an annual list that my agency, Birnbach Communications, compiles based on research, conversations with reporters, bloggers and Twitter members to find out what they're following. For nearly a decade, we've compiled the annual list of media trends to help clients more effectively work with the medi, both at traditional and online outlets, including blogs and other social media sites.

Anyway, since Jan. 9, we've been right about a number of the predictions. But what was startling was the pace of change regarding some of our predictions.

For example, we expected some second-tier newspapers would fold or shift to online-only mode. And we were right about that. But we really did not expect the closing of the Rocky Mountain News. And though we should have realized because the announcements were there, that primary papers in other top markets were in trouble, like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which is now online-only mode, and the San Francisco Chronicle, which will likely go online-only.

In fact, it's been difficult to keep pace and track with the number of first-tier and second-tier newspapers changes and layoffs. Since Jan., the pace of that change has accelerated beyond our expectations. We updated a media list yesterday that had last had its major update in Dec. 2008 -- and there were so many more changes than I've ever seen in three months, much less a year. Included were reporters who had been active journalists for decades.

So that's one prediction we did not get entirely right. We were hopeful more could survive, especially newspapers that were dominent in their markets. So we're revising our prediction to say that here will a lot of smaller and some larger markets without a major traditional paper.

One prediction we did not get right was the strength of hyperlocal reporting. While we still feel that hyperlocal coverage can be a solution, we now realize hyperlocal media is not immune to the cash flow and lack of advertising problems plaquing newspaper holding companies. Recently, the Journal Register sold two Connecticut dailies and closed several weeklies.

Please note: they closed them not because there wasn't local interest in hyperlocal news. There is. Just as there was readers support for the Rocky or the Seattle PI.

But that's not enough.

As I've noted before, circulation fees alone do not spare publications because advertising generates much more revenue. If advertising drops, even a circulation in the hundreds of thousands won't save the publicaiton. That's true for newspapers, like the Rocky or the Seattle PI, or consumer magazines, where glossies with 800,000 subscribers still closed.

However, to our credit, we did predict that local competition in the online space will heat up, and that still seems like it will be proven true.

Anyway, check out my interview on Blog Business Success Radio. And thanks for continuing to read this blog.

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