Friday, 29 August 2008

"As the media industry slowly dies around us" (Media Bistro)

I've posted before on the prevailing sense of gloom, or at least that perception among media commentators and analysts, regarding the newspaper industry. It's hard to gauge exactly how this is impacting consumer confidence (in this case advertisers) in MSM like the NYT and the IHT, but there is no doubt there is a buzz in Manhattan that things are very, very bad.

Read investment bank analyst reports, read of endless newsroom cuts in the U.S.A., newspapers sharing content to counter increased A.P rates, credit ratings, share performance, it's hard to know where to turn to find a happy spin. Other of course from the naturally upbeat announcements and interviews of people like Mr. Sulzberger.

To give yet another example, this headline and opening sentence from an article from Media Bistro, one of the better barometers of the U.S media scene.

Finding Sunshine Among the New Media Clouds

As the media industry slowly dies around us, we'll happily overplay any positive story to make us feel even marginally better about our chosen career. As such, we're pleased to report that the Web site of U.S. News & World Report had a record day with over 15 million page views last week after the publication of its annual college rankings survey. All this despite the fact that fewer and fewer colleges want to participate.
Additionally, bolstered by the Olympics,
Runner's World's site posted its best page view week ever with 5.14 million.
Of course, such gains only lead to success if you can monetize it.
[My emphasis] While traffic to the running mag's site is up 68 percent over last year, revenue is only up 23 percent.
Then again, if even The New York Times is struggling to make money, what hope do the rest of us have?
We'll deal with that later.

"As the media industry slowly dies around us"?

Herein lies the two problems: advertiser confidence perhaps reaching a tipping point from which it won't recover and the unresolved problem of of HOW TO MONETIZE TRAFFIC.

Neither the IHT nor the NYT can monetize traffic at sufficient rates of CPM or indeed achieve significant growth in revenue, to offset the fixed costs of their newsroom operations.

So what's the solution if it isn't the Internet?

It's publishing a succesful newspaper which pulls back in print advertising AS WELL AS growing a succesful Internet operation.

That requires a major strategic rethink, and coming up with Newspaper 2.0 because Newspaper 1.0 is dead or dieing. Why newspapers can't get their heads around the fact that their core product is increasingly reduntant and change it from sail to steam remains a mystery.

No one like to let go of a piece of driftwood (however big and seemingly solid) and swim to a lifeboat in the distance, but that's the challenge.

The good news is that people will pay over the top money for seemingly reduntant items or items where there is plenty of good quality cheaper competition (a Chanel handbag for example, a watch when everyone has a clock on their cell phone).

It's brand and design and timely content: not much wrong with the IHT's content that a little tinkering with timeliness and design won't sort out. Timeliness means more articles about today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

Yesterday's news is yesterdays news.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

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