Traditional Publishers Still Looking for Light At the End of the Tunnel

Sunday, September 20, 2009 23:22
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Traditional Publishers Still Looking for Light At the End of the Tunnel

Although opinions on the future of media are as widely varied as the content and editorial direction in the outlets themselves, The New York Times and its struggles to stay relevant seem to be a regular part of most any debate or prediction on the subject.

 

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While the speculation about the future of print media is nothing new, The Times and its struggles have seemed at times to take on a life of their own. Things only intensified once well known and well-regarded journalists began losing their jobs at the daily newspaper. However, they took on a heightened sense of urgency with the release of the company's second-quarter financials. In its Q2 earnings report, the company reported that ad revenue dropped 31.7 percent. While marketing budgets in general have declined substantially over the past year, the more typical number is something on the order of 10 percent, meaning that The Times in particular is taking it on the chin.

 

It should be noted that The Times and virtually every print outlet currently in publication has for some time been anticipating a decline in readership and worked to embrace a digital strategy. The problem lies in the fact that while more readers are moving online, the content they're reading generates much less ad revenue than printed editions; thus, the need for layoffs at most major publications. In addition, publishers of all stripes are working to incorporate user-generated content and shorter-form content designed with online audiences in mind in an effort to not only look "Web 2.0" savvy, but with the goal of trimming costs.

The notable exception to most of the tumult has been The Wall Street Journal, whose publisher News Corp. reversed course on its thinking to make its online edition free. So far, indications are the first major print publication to find profitability online is still going quite well financially. However, it too has broadened focus by adding a number of online exclusives, including forums and blogs.

For now, print's demographics and readerships still reign supreme over blogs and online-only outlets. But online venues are catching up fast and 2010 is likely to see even more changes in the media world -- especially since there's a good chance the longest post World War II downturn in history will still be wreaking some havoc.

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