Dorian Benkoil senior consultant at Teeming Media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he was a foreign correspondent for AP and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for ABCNews.com. At ABC News he moved to the business side, handling sales integration and business development, before joining Fairchild Publications as General Manager for their Internet division, becoming editorial director for mediabistro.com, then a consultant for Teeming Media in New York. He graduates this year with an MBA from Baruch's Zicklin school of business. Learn more about him at Benkoil.com or his blog - MediaFlect.com.
Robert Cauthorn is a journalist, former vice president of digital
media at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was the third recipient of
the Newspaper Association of America's prestigious Digital Pioneer
Award. He launched one of the first five newspapers web sites in the
world and is generally considered to have delivered the first
profitable newspaper web site in 1995. Cauthorn has been in the middle
of the transition from old media to new and is recognized as
frank-talking critic when he believes newspapers stray for their
mission. In mid-2004 he became the president of CityTools, LLC a new
media startup based in San Francisco.
Ben Compaine has divided his career between the academic world and private business. He was a journalist when manual typewriters were considered state of the art, but also led the conversion of his college newspaper to cold type. He has started and managed weekly newspapers. His dissertation at Temple University in 1977 was about the changing technologies that were going to unsettle the landscape of the staid and low profit newspaper industry. Since then he has focused his research and consulting on examining the forces and trends at work in the information industries. Among his most well-known works (and the name of his blog) is "Who Owns the Media?".
Vin Crosbie has been called "the Practical Futurist" by Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry. Editor & Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry, devoted the Overview chapter of executive research report Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers to his work. His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005. He has keynoted the Seybold Publishing Strategies conference in 2000; co-chaired and co-moderated last year's annual Beyond the Printed Word the digital publishing conference in Vienna; and regularly speaks at most major online news media conferences. He is currently in residence as adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant on executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and meanwhile is managing partner of the media consulting firm of Digital Deliverance LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
About this blog
Two forces have shattered the news media. Technology is the first. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, for more than ten years now the news industry has mistaken new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or analog products. Estrangement is the second. The news media has lost touch with people's needs and interests during the past 30 years, as demonstrated by rapidly declining readerships of newspapers and audiences of broadcast news. How we rebuild news media appropriate to the 21st Century from the growing rubble of this industry is the subject of this group weblog.
Fresh data that has surfaced over the past few weeks has reinforced previously observed trends in media advertising and usage. But they have also raised some red flags or sounded warning bells or whatever imagery you’d prefer. Yet amidst the downers there are some positive signs. The transition from legacy media formats to digital formats continues to show a mix of threats and opportunities.
First is the continued downward spiral of advertising in daily newspapers. Nothing new here. But the rate of decline may be accelerating. For the fourth quarter of 2006, total ad revenue at newspapers-- including online revenue-- was down 3.7% from the same period a year earlier.
This past February, individual newspapers and groups reported some dramatic year over year declines: USA Today down 14% while parent Gannett was down 3.8% overall. The Tribune Co. and McClatchy both reported 5% losses. The New York Times Co. was down 6% and The Wall Street Journal off by 10%. Even publishers of smaller city papers, where the losses have been more modest in the past, were afflicted. Media General, which publishes papers in Tampa, Richmond, VA and Winston-Salem, NC, was down almost 6%.
And this is in a period where advertising expenditures in general were reasonably robust. One can't attribute this to a recession. The New York Times reports that publishers “blamed the declines largely on the continuing shift of classified advertisers from print to online, especially to mostly free sites like Craig’s List. In some cases, particularly in Florida and California, they traced the weaknesses to volatile real estate markets.”
Meanwhile, one bright spot for newspapers, online advertising, is showing some signs of slowing as well. Online ad revenue, though up 31.5% for newspapers last year to $2.7 billion, still accounted for only 5.4% of newspaper ad expenditures. Most threatening is that newspapers are facing growing competition from other Web sites aimed at their local market strongholds. Google and Yahoo have already been offering key word search-related advertising that can be geared to local advertisers. But now other local media—TV and radio stations, city magazines—are beefing up their Web sites to help shore up their own advertising woes. Radio stations, faced with declining time spent listening are putting video on their Web sites, along with streaming audio of their programming, to attract larger audiences and selling local advertising.
Perhaps most ominously for all the local media is that the largest share of advertising as well as the fastest growing, are “pure play” sites. That is, they are not related to existing legacy media but exist solely on the Web. This might include Craig’s List as well as local news sites such as Buffalo Rising and Dallas’ Pegasus News. As seen in this table from Borrell Associates, about 38% of local online adverting goes to these nontraditional sites—and their share is rising.
There is a small note of good news. A Nielsen/NetRatings study (commissioned by the newspaper industry trade association), found that online visitors to newspapers Web site rose by 5.3% in the first quarter of this year. According to this source, that is the steepest quarterly rise since the numbers were first tracked in 2004. This translates to 59 million visitors to newspaper Web sites.
And another report that might lift the spirits of newspaper publishers came from the Poynter Institute last month. A study tracked the eye movement of 600 test subjects as they read whatever they wanted from their regular newspaper and their newspaper’s Web sites. The most relevant finding for here is that a much larger percentage of story text was read online than in print.
On average, online readers read 77% of what they chose to read, while broadsheet readers read an average of 62% and tabloid readers read an average of 57%.
Newspaper publisher McClatchy Co. has entered into an agreement to provide Yahoo with news and commentary from its staff. Initially it will be limited to material from just four foreign bureaus, but could expand.
With more than 36 million unique monthly visitors to Yahoo’s news site alone, the alliance gives McClatchy far more exposure than it gets through its newspaper (aggregate circulation about 3 million, readership maybe two times. Web site visits likely include some overlap with print readership).
This is just one of a string of recently announced deals between newspaper publishing companies and Yahoo and rival Google. It is the start of a realization that the core of the news business in the future for these folks is more news gathering and less news distribution.
It is part of an action plan (I would hope) among some legacy media companies more than others that it can no longer be business as usual in the digitally connected universe. Ken Goldstein, a analyst who concentrates on Canadian media, has a few illustrations that nicely captures how massive this change is, looking in this case at television.
Figure 1, which I have only slightly modified from his, shows the quite simple value chain c. 1975: Content providers—primarily Hollywood studios – created movies and television programming. They were distributed via commercial broadcasters to consumers, with nascent cable providers also starting to retransmit those signals. Advertisers contracted with the broadcasters to deliver their messages to the consumer. Straightforward and limited to handful of players.
Fast forward to 2007. Figure 2 shows a far richer, more complex, more fragmented landscape. The number of players has proliferated exponentially. Indeed, considering peer-to-peer and aggregators such as YouTube that provide easy access to materials from content creators that range from the highly professionals to the rank duffer, the close circle of content providers is blown apart. And this is possible because the gate keeping function of the broadcasters and then cable providers has been undermined by satellite and the Internet, not to mention offline conduits such as DVDs.
Similar charting of the newspaper or radio value chains would yield parallel changes, blowing up of the tight community of players and limited choices for advertisers and consumers. In its place is greater choice for these constituencies. But with this choice comes greater effort, for advertisers to find the best outlets for their target markets and for consumers to know what they want and where to find it.
This change also provides a surfeit of opportunity for those enterprises willing to make the effort and accept some failures in experimenting with evolving and unproven business models. I don’t know how the McClatchy/Yahoo deal will pay off for the newspaper publisher. But it is certainly moving its mindset in the right direction.