2009 saw a newspaper industry massacre with more than 300 newspapers folding, including the Rocky Mountain News and the print editions of several major dailies. Over the course of 2010, the industry seems to have stabilized, according to David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group. “This is not to say this is your father’s newspaper business,” he points out. “It doesn’t look like it once did, but things seem to be a little less in a state of flux”.
Approximately 151 newspapers closed down in 2010: that’s about half the number of 2009’s folds.
“Something had to change as the newspaper business was hemorrhaging jobs and money,” says Coates. “It was a Darwinian environment and only the strong remain. Those newspapers that adapted to the changing media and distribution of news survived, and those that didn’t died.”
Many of the survivors were community newspapers that understood how to successfully connect with their readers online and in print.
Out of the 724 launches this year, all but 36 were Patch.com sites. “The addition of Patch has made the hyperlocal news websites an extremely competitive business, especially in the Boston area. Patch, Wicked Local (part of Gatehouse Media) and Your Town (part of the Boston Globe’s Boston.com), have all set up shop in the Boston area and are competing aggressively for local news,” Coates says.
“The question arises: is there enough news in that area to sustain multiple hyperlocal news sites? That remains to be seen, but it seems like good news for public relations professionals who are trying to pitch stories. Because there is so much competition for news, these sites will be looking for more content to fill their pages.”
Since Patch has saturated markets with more than one website, it wouldn’t be surprising if it consolidated some sites in 2011, Coates notes.
Meanwhile, 18 of the non-Patch launches were online-only publications, including the Connecticut Mirror, Tucson
Sentinel, and the Bay Citizen. The print newspapers launched included L.A.’s Blogdowntown Weekly, the Washington Post’s Capital Business, and the Clarendon Citizen in Manning, S.C. Approximately 11 papers went online-only.
It was a Darwinian environment and only the strong remain. Newspapers that adapted survived; those that didn’t died.
In 2010, newspapers continued to experiment with paywalls, with several using a metered model that has shown mild success. However, paywalls at Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London and The Sunday Times had mixed results, Coates points out. In 2011, the New York Times is slated to finally launch their long-awaited metered paywall. “Expect the Times to come up with something unique for its longtime readers,” Coates says.
Speaking of Murdoch, the long-anticipated iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, is expected to launch in January. Although several newspapers, including the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, have iPad applications, there is yet to be a newspaper made exclusively for Apple’s iPad. How will it pan out?
“The success or failure—and with Murdoch, failure is not an option—of The Daily will set the bar for the newspaper computer tablet business,” says Coates. “It wouldn’t be a big surprise if several other traditional newspapers stopped printing on paper altogether in the near future and moved to the computer tablet, or at least online-only.”
As we move into 2011, newspaper organizations will continue working to merge print and online products in a cohesive way to produce news.
“The newspaper’s days of ink-stained hands has given way to digital,” says Coates. “It is not about the printed version of the product anymore; it is about the brand.” For example, just because the Washington Post’s print circulation has dropped, it doesn’t mean the product itself has lost its prestige. The paper’s reporters are still considered experts in their field. The website with its video, podcasts, blogs and tweets are all a part of the brand.
“In the future,” Coates says, “the success of newspapers will not be measured by printed circulation but in terms of impact through whatever brand reaches the public. However, success is measured by the bottom line and the future is still a little murky as to how these brands will turn a profit in terms of online advertising, paywalls and computer tablet apps. Stay tuned.”
A year ago, magazines were dropping like flies. However, over 2010, the industry stabilized enough for more magazines to launch than to fold – with a total number of 169 launches and 167 folds.
“I think publishers have figured out how people want to consume which types of content,” says Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group.
“The Atlantic, for the first time in a decade, is not losing money. It attributes much of that success to taking down its paywall and putting younger writers on a Web-first deadline, as well as merging the print and digital sales teams. For larger-tier magazines like the ones at Time Inc., you’re going to need a bigger boat: one that makes bigger moves resulting in
2009’s trend for mass closures was centered on consumer magazines, while 2010’s closures were more concentrated in trade/industry titles, notes Bredholt.
“If you ake a closer look at the smaller category of news and business, which houses titles like Newsweek, you won’t find as many closures—only U.S. News & World Report shuttered—but you will find a great reduction in editorial staff positions,”
The trend in magazine launches was toward local and regional: a perfect example of how popular the hyperlocal concept has become among all media. Many of the launches were in the health and food niches, including Dash, Athlon Sports, Yum Food & Fun, Made Possible, and Where Women Cook. Meanwhile, 49 digital and online magazines launched this year, while 53 print products went online-only.
If you start reading a story on your BlackBerry and want to finish it on your laptop, you’ll be able to do that. The technology comes first and then the content fills its form like syrup.
However, the industry hasn’t completely recovered, notes Bredholt. Advertising revenue was barely up from 2009. And consumer magazines saw more substantial gains than other magazine titles, she said, noting that the Publishers Information Bureau reported that 136 magazines increased ad pages in Q3 2010, compared to 25 magazines in Q3 2009.
In 2011, Bredholt believes, print magazines will provide less unique and paid-for content in print.
“Forbes picked up the mantra that several other business and trade magazines have: get ‘experts’ to write articles so we have less content to pay for,” she says. “Then, take whatever content you can get your hands on and spin it into as many platforms electronically as makes sense.”
In 2011, notes Bredholt, we should expect digital content, applications and mobile devices to grow in popularity even further. The iPad is one such mobile device that rocked the magazine industry in 2010. Currently, around 50 magazines have applications for the iPad, and that number is always growing.
“If anything, the iPad has helped publishers by getting them to be more interactive,” says Bredholt. “That has started the wheels turning at other magazines, even if they don’t have an iPad edition. They’re working to present their material more creatively.”
What’s next? Seamless integration, Bredholt says. “If you start reading a story on your BlackBerry and want to finish it on your laptop, you’ll be able to do that. The technology usually comes first and then the content fills its form like syrup.”
The television industry saw major job losses in 2009, but in 2010, job turnover stabilized. According to the Vocus TV data team, ABC was the only major news organization to make big cuts this year, letting almost 300 staff members go.
One of 2010’s hottest trends was the 4:30 a.m. newscast. More than 60 stations added the 4:30 newscast, including WGN (CW), WFLD (FOX) and WLS (ABC) in Chicago; KMBC (ABC) and KSHB (NBC) in Kansas City; KCTV (CBS) in Fairway, Kan.; and WQAD (ABC) in Moline, Ill. In Boston, four of the five major news channels now broadcast at 4:30 a.m., including New England Cable News, WCVB (ABC), WBZ (CBS) and WFXT (FOX).
“Stations are realizing that viewers, especially in larger metropolitan areas where rush-hour traffic is an issue, are waking up earlier to go to work,” says Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group. “They are adding earlier newscasts to reach out to that audience.”
2010 also saw experiments involving advertorial programming, with stations adding paid-for programming to their mid-morning schedules. Stations in Las Vegas and Boston experimented with these talk shows, where sponsors bought time to promote a product. These programs were short-lived, however, because viewers tuned out. Earlier this year, the idea of 3D television became popular, and it wasn’t long before some broadcast companies bought into the idea, including DirectTV, ESPN and Discovery.
“However, the top four broadcast networks – NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox – would have to convert to 3D technology before local stations would follow suit,” says Holley. “Even if local broadcasters do catch on in the years to come, it is unlikely it would affect local news anytime soon because of the costs associated with purchasing cameras that shoot in 3D. And the question remains: does anyone really want to watch the news in 3D? Sure, snowflakes would look really cool. But a car wreck might look a lot worse with that extra dimension.”
3D television sales are predicted to grow in 2011, says Holley, citing a report by Futuresource Consulting that predicts sales to double to 5 million sets per year. However, she notes, this would cover only a small fraction of the country’s 100 million households.
Even if local broadcasters do catch onto 3D, it is unlikely to affect local news anytime soon because of the costs associated with purchasing cameras Hispanic digital subchannels are expected to continue to increase as the Spanish-speaking population grows. According to Nielsen
Media Research, Hispanic TV homes will increase by about three percent to 13.4 million by the end of this broadcast season.
“Digital subchannels remain the cheaper solution for companies trying to reach out to growing audiences, as compared to the costs of operating an entire station,” says Holley. “This is especially true in cities with a need for Spanish-language programming but where Hispanics represent only a small portion of the overall population; examples include KPTM-TV in Omaha, Neb., and KGW-TV in Portland, Ore., both of which added Spanish subchannels in 2010.”
The convergence of television, computers and mobile devices will continue into 2011. The Vocus TV data group has found that many stations across the country already offer news alerts by text message and are moving toward live streaming video and mobile applications for smartphones. Using Facebook and Twitter to promote news stories also gained popularity in the broadcast realm this year. Fox affiliate WTTG-TV used social media to get news out, while simultaneously streaming live newscasts for the iPhone and Android phones.
Mobile newscasts are slated to grow this year, due in part to an agreement between Mobile Content Venture, and NBC and Fox stations, to broadcast two channels of programming in 20 markets on an ad-supported mobile platform by the end of 2011. The programming is expected to be free, although it’s not yet clear what it will consist of.
“It remains to be seen whether stations will create original content for mobile distribution or just re-hash the news and re-use the day’s video,” says Holley. “We saw that earlier in the decade when stations began offering podcasts to viewers in the form of short snippets of the day’s top stories; stations would create them immediately after a live newscast using the same scripts and video. Either option would be beneficial to a PR professional. If it’s new content, it’s yet another place to get your story aired. If it’s a re-hash and your story made it in the first time, it might make it on again in this medium.”
Is terrestrial radio dying? In a changing media world, the future of radio is uncertain, but the answer to whether it’s disappearing or not depends on who you ask, says Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group.
“The assumption is that with all the new technology available—Internet radio, satellite radio and iPods—giving consumers more and more listening options, traditional radio will soon go the way of newspapers,” says Johnson. “A cursory look indicates that this might be the case.”
A survey by Forrester Research, Johnson notes, reports that terrestrial radio use is down 15 percent over the last five years—and while online media is growing, only one in four people surveyed said they listened to streaming audio. Arbitron, however, reports that radio in the top ten markets achieved more listening time in 2010 than in 2009.
Either way, radio is moving into a mobile age. At the National Association of Broadcasters/Radio Advertisers Bureau Show in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Arbitron and Jacobs Media unveiled a project entitled Goin’ Mobile. A sampling of 18 smartphone users aged 18-49 found that many rely on their devices for listening to music as well as news. “Radio has a built-in audience that it can direct to its mobile applications,” Johnson says. “What is clear is that radio must create a mobile strategy for 2011.”
Meanwhile, more online resources are popping up all the time. Customizable music services like Pandora, Last FM, Yahoo! Music and MySpace Music are becoming more popular, Johnson notes.
“Pandora now has more than 60 million registered users, more than double the number it had last year,” says Johnson “But at the same time, more and more stations are streaming their content online and networks like ESPN are doing the same,” he says, noting that several university stations are in danger of losing their FM signals and going online-only, such as Houston-based Rice University’s KTRU-FM.Sirius XM Radio, with its 20 million subscribers, is doing fairly well, notes Johnson, who credits some of that success to the new car market and the vehicles that come with free trials of Sirius. However, there may be challenges in the future as in-vehicle Internet connectivity grows more popular and allows listeners to tune into customized content without the subscription fees. Then there is HD radio, which allows multiple radio streams on a single channel. The industry expected it to be a hit; however, people proved reluctant to purchase an HD radio despite the absence of subscription fees.
Although there aren’t many HD radio users yet, nearly 2,000 stations now broadcast in HD, and there are more than 1,000 new local FM HD2/HD3 stations, Johnson says. “Rather than trying to get people to buy the radios, the push is now to get the car manufacturers to offer them as standard or optional in 2011 models.”
So what does all this mean for the future of radio?
“It means radio will continue to be a vital medium if it makes the most of the advantages it already has in this digital age,” says Johnson. “It can become mobile through apps and FM transmitters in cell phones. Radio can interact with listeners, through Facebook and Twitter for example, in ways it never could before. If radio chooses to embrace new technology and extend its reach beyond the AM/FM bands, it has the potential to do what it has done so well over the years: provide niche programming to targeted audiences. Providing local content and tying that content to high-profile events and issues in the community is important.”
Radio will continue to be a vital medium if it makes the most of the advantages it already has in this digital age.
How Business Models Changed in 2010
As the media industry attempted to survive in an increasingly digital world, experimentation was a big part of 2010. In newspaper land, paywalls were raised and brought down by some news organizations like the Texas-based Valley Morning Star. Others, like the Lancaster New Era and Intelligencer Journal, experimented on a smaller scale; the newspaper opted to close just its obituaries off to out-of-town readers, rather than the whole site. In 2011, the media industry will most likely continue to experiment with the metered paywall, with even college newspapers getting into the game. Oklahoma College’s Daily O’Collegian recently announced it will charge non-local readers who visit the site more than three times per month.
While most news organizations focused on the digital aspect of publishing, the Blogdowntown Weekly, which was once a blog-type online news source in Los Angeles, decided to go print. The Printed Blog, a newspaper featuring blogs from across the Web, returned as a magazine-type publication with a heavy emphasis on vivid, edgy photos. Indeed, blogs made up a big part of some business models during 2010, including TBD.com, short for “to be determined.” This Allbritton-owned website launched to much fanfare, touting a heavy emphasis on social media and content supported by community bloggers. Not only does the site provide original and aggregated content, it uses D.C.-area bloggers, creating a vast variety of content as well as a chance for bloggers to get more page hits. But TBD is not only on the Web; its TV component is News Channel 8, or TBD TV.
“Jim Brady, the former general manager of TBD.com, told the Guardian of London that the model he sought was to build a local news site that’s of the Web, not just on it,” says David Coates. “It appears that TBD.com has accomplished that. Ironically, it remains ‘to be determined’ if this model can be replicated in another market, or if this was the perfect storm of two forms of media converging.”
The iPad also had an impact on the industry as iPad-only publications started to appear in addition to Murdoch’s The Daily, including Project magazine, Flipboard, and Maverick, which is also available on the iPhone and Android.
In 2010, some magazine publishers innovated with brand extensions to bring in other forms of revenue. This included Esquire, which launched a luxury furniture line called Esquire Home Collections.
“It forces them to think more holistically about the brand they represent,” says Rebecca Bredholt. “They’re selling a lifestyle, not just a magazine.” In addition, Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue provided salon services at its Teen Vogue’s Haute Spot pop-up retail stores, located in malls across the country, while Good Housekeeping debuted an actual musical called “Shine On” at the New York City Center in April.
In all media, mobile apps and an increasing focus on the digital and social aspects of media have changed traditional media models. As media hybrids emerge, it is becoming clear that there is no longer a “right” or “wrong” business model; rather, just a variety of ways to get the news out.
The Growing & Changing Use of Social Media
Social media took on an even bigger role within the media industry in 2010 as more outlets and journalists adopted social media guidelines, created social media editor positions, and set up fan pages. Twitter has now become a way for news organizations to break news, while different social media platforms allow for deeper engagement within their respective communities.
Some journalists that stand out as social media gurus include Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, as well as the New York Times’ Brian Stelter, Chicago Sun Times’ Roger Ebert, and Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast. “All of these journalists cover the media to some extent so it comes as no surprise that they rely on social media to reach out to their followers,” says David Coates.
InStyle magazine has demonstrated its social media knowhow by posting links to new stories and announcing clothing sales and coupons on social media platforms, notes Rebecca Bredholt. “I would also say that a lot of magazine editors are now on LinkedIn and are willing to connect with PR people there—more so than Facebook or even Twitter,” she says. And social media will continue to grow: in 2011, the Association of Magazine Media will even host a conference on social media.
In the coming year, social media will continue to be a source for quick information during breaking news situations, notes Julie Holley.
“Unlike what we’ve seen with radio, only some TV stations are choosing to make station fan pages,” she says. “Most Facebook use is seen among the staff of media organizations, i.e. producers and on-air talent. Stations and networks, however, are on Twitter in higher numbers and many use the platform like a news alert system, broadcasting short snippets of breaking news to those who subscribe to their feed.”
Anchors and reporters are also using Facebook and Twitter to connect with viewers, promoting a story or giving behind-the-scenes information. ABC News reporter Terry Moran’s Twitter page, for example, might provide information on his latest story, or note what goes on before a White House news conference. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien might tweet about her recent knee surgery or discuss a recent story.
“TV stations also continue to encourage user-generated content in the form of pictures and video”, says Holley. “That’s not something that’s going to go away anytime soon. News organizations simply do not have the resources to cover every story that is happening around them. They have always relied on tips from the public for story ideas; now they are relying on viewers for visual material. Since so many people carry picture or video-enabled phones, viewers are able to capture an event and e-mail it quickly. Because it’s a visual medium, if presented with great video, TV stations will use it, even if there are only a few facts to work with.”
However, just because journalists are embracing social media, it doesn’t mean they want to get pitched this way, Holley notes. “The best way around this is to become a part of the conversation ahead of time.”
Like other media, many radio stations have increased their presence on Facebook and Twitter. Kyle Johnson cites a study by NPR’s Weekend Edition and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, which found that social media has allowed listeners to alert the media to stories, and engage with the program like never before.
“What radio needs to do is expand on the social media platform, combine it with its built-in advantages and continue to make listening experiences more personalized,” he said. “Online music listening services such as Pandora and Slacker have become popular–they make the music experience much more personalized than terrestrial radio. Radio can use what it already has, along with emerging technologies and social media to personalize content for listeners to some extent, or at the very least allow two-way interaction.”
The Evolving Media Industry and Its Impact on PR Pros
The pa of the news cycle has picked up not only for journalists, but also for PR professionals who have to pay attention to more platforms than ever before: websites, chatrooms, Facebook and Twitter as well as print, TV and radio. Add mobile platforms to that list, and the array of pitching possibilities continues to grow.
Social media has created a brand-new way for PR people to connect with journalists; however, blindly pitching through these platforms can create a negative response. To be successful, PR people should engage with journalists they’re interested in pitching, comment on past stories and demonstrate an understanding of what that journalist is interested in covering. In addition, tweeting links and sharing them with others shows reporters that you are actively engaged with their content. Making sure a journalist is okay with a social media pitch beforehand is also a good way to ensure relations remain pleasant and mutually beneficial.
In interviews with journalists, the Vocus Media Research Group has found e-mail still remains the favorite way for journalists to receive communications from PR professionals. However, if it’s a truly good story, the means doesn’t matter as much—as long as the content is relevant. Meanwhile, if a PR campaign generates enough social media activity, a story may follow.
For PR pros, keeping up with magazine staff changes in 2010 was probably like climbing a Stairmaster, notes Bredholt. Editors changed roles, added responsibilities such as providing more digital content, and switched outlets. PR professionals who continue to maintain relationships with journalists on the move will find it easier to keep up with all the changes.
As new outlets launch, including the increasing number of online hyperlocal ventures, the opportunities for PR professionals also increase. But no matter what the circumstances, tailoring pitches to each outlet and journalist remains a must, especially in an age when information is so readily accessible. TV stations, for example, target specific audiences and focus on select topics. PR professionals should continue to pay close attention the kinds of stories stations are covering. This doesn’t just hold true in television, but for every medium. Journalists are increasingly fettered with cluttered inboxes, so pitches should be short, concise and on-target. Trust between the PR pro and the journalist is now more important than ever—and that starts with content that is appropriate to a reporter’s coverage.
Keep in mind that although radio is changing rapidly, it still reaches more than 90 percent of U.S. consumers each week, with news/talk radio still the number one radio format. Although messages aren’t limited to the scope of a station’s broadcast signal (since more stations stream audio online) linking a message to local issues can get you far in an industry with an increased focus on local news.s a direct result of changing media platforms, PR pros are now a part of the media in a way they never have been before. They now blog, tweet, and even interview famous journalists, as digital analyst and FutureWorks principle Brian Solis did with Katie Couric. Some even receive pitches. In this way, PR professionals can now promote themselves like never before through all the media platforms now available to them.
The basics of good PR never go away, but the means to execute them continues to evolve. As we head into 2011, PR professionals must make sure to use all the new and wonderful tools available while continuing to execute PR campaigns with relevance, attention to detail and social media mindedness.
A year ago it seemed as if the media were on the brink of destruction. Now, phoenix-like, the industry has risen up to begin a transformation that will leave behind the constraints of traditional media. In 2011, new models will continue to appear as old models adapt, while the boundaries of newspapers, magazines, television and radio become less defined. Relationships between media will continue to evolve, as will the media’s engagement with Twitter, Facebook and all things social media.
Major change is upon us and will continue into 2011 and beyond. However, despite the changes the media will undergo this year, the industry will continue to survive—and thrive—as a conveyer of news and information, regardless of platform.