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As the ad money dries up, the media is closing

2009 not kind to the media

2009 not kind to the media

The numbers are in, and 2009 has not been kind to the media so far. As advertising revenue continues to fall, the media struggles with sudden closures and cancelled launches. The troubles are reflected in the Vocus Media Database, which adds and removes major North American media outlets as launches and closures occur: television and radio shows dropped off the air, more magazines folded than launched, and many newspapers either shut their doors or went digital-only.

In broadcast TV, local productions were hit hardest by cancellations. Just 15 of the 123 cancelled news-based television shows between January and June were either national shows or those at network affiliates in large metro areas. The other 108 cancelled shows were in small media markets, quite often locally produced news, sports, talk or specialty shows.

Radio saw a higher percentage of national and major media market shows cancelled than television. But the majority of radio cancellations during the first half of 2009 were still locally produced affairs, which meant less local radio programming across the nation: of the 186 cancelled radio shows, 114 were in smaller media markets, 72 in major media markets or were national shows.

In the magazine business, the health of the industry is to some degree measured by comparing the number of launches with closures. There were 154 magazine launches in the first half of this year, compared to 556 magazines eliminated due to closings, which include consumer, business/news, and trade/industry magazines and newsletters.

Within consumer magazines, none of the launches involved a large brand name. Of the 154 launches, 84 were consumer magazines, many in the lifestyle or regional/city publication categories. There were also seven business magazines launched and 63 new trade/industry magazines.

The newspaper industry was hit by significant closings in the first half of 2009 (the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Baltimore Examiner and Seattle Post-Intelligencer all ceased publishing a print edition), but legions of daily newspapers haven’t folded. The vulnerability of the newspaper industry cannot be measured only by the number of shuttered papers, however. Newspapers across the country also closed 110 bureaus, according to the Vocus Database. Some of the bureaus were in Washington, D.C., but many were in areas close to the parent newspapers, a trend that would never have occurred during more robust times.

The last half of 2009 may not be much different. A financial analysis by Time magazine pointed to 10 major newspapers that could close by year’s end. Meanwhile, the number of ad pages sold by the entire magazine industry are expected to be available from the Magazine Publishers of America July 10. The magazine advertising revenue for early 2009 showed a 20 percent decline compared to first quarter 2008. Now, it’s clear that loss in revenue has impacted the media not only with a large loss in jobs, but in ever-decreasing numbers of media organizations.

–Michael Blankenheim

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