Each year, Birnbach Communications
compiles an annual list of media trends for our clients, helping them to work more effectively with the media, both at traditional and online outlets, including blogs and social networking sites. Here's a list of some of our top trends in one place, to make it easier to review them all; let us know if you agree or disagree with what we've said.
- Traditional print journalism will continue to be important. Even as the resources allocated to practicing it diminish -- fewer print newspapers, fewer reporters at those print papers, and less space in those papers -- yet traditional journalism conducted by newspapers will continue to drive content across the web. A 2009 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found though there are a lot more places to find news online, "of the stories that did contain new information, nearly all, 95 percent, came from old media -- most of them newspapers." In other words, most of the news articles found online basically picked up content from traditional sources, like newspapers, adding some commentary, but not new facts.
- Print newspapers and magazines will continue to struggle in 2010, and more will consider shutting down or transitioning to online-only, despite a (slower than we'd like) recovering economy. Although the number of magazines that shut down peaked in 2008, at 525, last year said goodbye to 360 magazines, including some major magazines like Gourmet, Metropolitan Home, Fortune Small Business. Last year also saw the deaths of major daily newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as dozens of smaller papers. Large newspaper companies also announced bankruptcies last year, and we expect more closings in 2010. There is some good news: advertising pages may be increasing, according to Q1 projections, but only by 3 percent. However, print subscriptions continue to decline, and we expect newsroom layoffs to continue. The lesson: magazines from big publishing companies and significant circulations were not immune. Already, BusinessWeek SmallBiz announced (via postcard) that its Dec. 09/Jan. 10 issue was its last.
- 2010 will be the year of online subscriptions as publishers of all kinds are finding out that advertising-only-supported sites are not self-sustaining. Charging user fees will allow these sites to survive. The implications include:
- Getting the price for online subscriptions will be important. After all, Newsday.com spent millions to redesign its site to put a pay-wall so it could charge readers $5.00 per week for access. In three months, Newsday.com generated only 35 subscribers. In contrast, the Wall St. Journal charges less than $100 for online access, with a discount for print subscribers.
- Publishers will consider a number of different plans, ranging from a pay-wall which enables only paid subscribers to access content; a metered system that allows readers to sample a few articles before being asked to subscribe; premium access, in which many articles are free but more important ones are available only to paid subscribers; and a membership model like public radio.
- One problem will be that, despite new subscription platforms from a variety of companies, from startups like Journalism Online (run by Steven Brill) to potential solutions from News Corp., Google, Microsoft and IBM. The challenge: if some publications don't charge, people will gravitate to those free services.
- Online-only news outlets won't be immune to layoffs. They will find out cutting out printing and distribution costs isn't enough to be self-sustaining because they've given up a number of substantial revenue streams, too.
- Online subscriptions won't limited to online news content. Twitter will unveil a business model that will likely be focused on charging fees to businesses that use Twitter. Rupert Murdoch, who is an ardent advocate of charging for online content, and owns a percentage of Hulu.com, will push Hulu.com to offer its video library on a per-viewing and on an unlimited basis. The same goes for some streaming music sites that currently are available for free.
- Apple's iPad may make it easier for print newspapers to charge subscription fees for online access. A lot of print media are designing new layouts to take advantage of future tablet offerings.
- Mobile access on hand-held devices like the iPad, netbooks, and increasingly powerful app phones, will become increasingly important in 2010. Content will need to be platform-agnostic, including audio and video, developed to meet the demands of several key platforms (and not just the iPad and iPhone). It's not just newspaper publishers who need to think cross-platform; it's all businesses, whether they're trying to reach consumers or B2B customers.
- Top business and technology stories in 2010 are likely to include the following topics, though not necessarily in this order:
- The economy, including the recovery, the housing market, auto industry and the "new normal."
- The freelancing of the US workforce -- or how we'll all be contractors or "perma-temps" in the future (especially given the jobless nature of the recovery).
- Apple's iPad and the future of mobile computing and Apple's iPads vs. cellphones vs. Kindle and other e-readers.
- Cloud computing and virtualization -- and yes, we know: they're not the same thing.
- Health care reform.
- Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft and EMC vs. HP vs. Oracle.
- 3-D TVs.
- The state of the media, especially print media, online-only business models and online subscriptions.
- Twitter's business model.
- Location-based services and behavioral targeting by advertisers.
- Online privacy as social media, behavioral targeting, location-based services and hackers combine to make it easy for others to access personal information.
This is not to exclude the other topics we've included in our 2010 predictions.
- In-flight Internet access will take off: We will see more in-flight Internet access in 2010 – by 2011; it won’t even be something airlines tout as another reason to fly with them. Lufthansa rolled out new service: web surfing from 30,000 ft at $3/min. (What does it cost for tech support?) We can expect more conference calls and emails, and flying cross country no longer means being unable to respond to email. But battery life, additional sockets, and headphones will be boom businesses. The rise of business videoconference calls may increase the noise level, but not to the point of requiring talking and no-talking sections. As with other aspects of high-speed Internet access, though the Internet was established in the U.S. , count on international airlines to be ahead of domestic airlines in the type of services offered travelers. (Coffee, Tea or Internet Access?)
- Video may have killed the radio star but radio will continue to survive -- for now. But in two years, we may not be making the same prediction. Today's kids do not listen to radio as much as previous generations did. They listen to iPods, and soon, iPads. We believe that radio continues to be important, especially during drive-time commutes. We think record companies should continue to support radio stations because people still first hear new songs on radio and then decide to download songs (or buy CDs, if they're boomers) based on what they hear on the radio. But because today's children are not getting in the habit of listening to radio, and because today's homes are less likely to have radios other than as part of a stereo system, radio stations are going to need to find ways to reach and cultivate new listeners. That's where record companies can come in, to their mutual benefit. Of course, radio may survive during increasingly long commute times since more states have enacted laws that prohibit texting while driving or require drivers to use hands-free technology when using their cellphones.
- The decline and fall of TV networks...won't happen in 2010, but networks are definitely on the decline. Case in point: "The Jay Leno Show" vs. "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." In the end, NBC has been shedding viewers, and no change of hosts or programs may bring them back. It's not as though those viewers were sticking around for drama at 10 p.m. on other networks. Most likely they were turning to cable programs or on-demand offerings, TiVo, Hulu.com or the Internet.
- Social media platforms will survive the recovery. Some critics have said that Twitter and Facebook did well during the downturn because people had available time, either because they had less to do or because they had lost their jobs. People will continue to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media services but they might not be updating their pages quite as often. Social media sites will consider rolling out new ways for users to post and engage via multimedia (audio and video).
- Live integrated real-time interactive multimedia web events, which combine live video, and offering the ability to post and read comments on Twitter and Facebook windows, will become more common in 2010. Last year, Bill Cosby conducted the first-ever interactive townhall to introduce Cosnarati, a socially conscious hip hop group that he produces (http://www.ustream.tv/billcosby), offering a live videostream with a real-time Q&A function and the ability to post comments on Twitter and Facebook. The event gave users a number of ways to interact with Cosby, and could offer a solution for network TV -- if they can find a way to make money off it.
- The intersection of social media and traditional journalism will be increasingly busy. For example, while the Super Bowl continues to be the biggest non-holiday event for which Americans gather together, and while people comment on the ads as much as the games, advertisers themselves are looking beyond the ads, often offering websites with extended versions of some ads, driving viewers to their sites. Another example: Olympic sponsors are changing their approach this year -- rather than having social media simply an add-on to advertising and their PR activities- they are embracing it/integrating it.
- Online credibility will continue to be important, but new FTC rules requiring bloggers to disclose the receipt of free samples, gifts and cash payments will get confusing because many who don't blog are not required to make similar disclosures. Currently, tech reviewers at newspapers get free samples but don't need to disclose that fact (though Walt Mossberg and others do…on their websites and blogs). Theater reviewers often get free tickets while many freelance travel writers get all their travel "comped." Yet the FTC does not require these folks to disclose gifts unless they're bloggers. We actually think it makes sense to disclose any type of relationship with an organization being discussed because credibility is important for bloggers and non-bloggers. While it's good to see a government agency understand the need to keep pace with technology, we need clearer rules that ensure equal footing so that reviewers disclose relationships whether or not their work appears on a blog or in print.
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