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Media casualties start slowing in third quarter of 2009

Media casualties start slowing in third quarter of 2009

Media casualties start slowing in third quarter of 2009

While the media industry continues to weather hard times as publications close and shows are canceled, the drop-off rate seems to have slowed compared to the swift casualties seen at the start of 2009.

Although the newspaper industry said goodbye to the Ann Arbor News in July, it’s the only large daily paper to see an untimely end in the past three months. According to the Vocus Media Database, a total of about 35 papers closed from July 1 to Sept. 30 – the majority being corporate-owned community weeklies. The numbers are pretty consistent with last quarter, when about 37 papers closed and 11 launched.

While the gutting of the newspaper industry continues, the pace in which this is happening appears to be slowing down. The first quarter of 2009 saw massive closings when two large dailies, the Baltimore Examiner and Rocky Mountain News, as well as approximately 90 community papers went under.

In the realm of radio, the numbers are also holding steady. “While the number of radio stations has remained constant from last quarter, the number of programs has fallen by about 40,” said Kyle Johnson, managing editor of Vocus Media Research Group’s radio division. “Most of the programs that have been eliminated were local, suggesting that the economy has forced some stations to scrap local programming in favor of nationally syndicated (less expensive) shows.” The same could be said for television as the majority of cancellations happened in the smaller markets.

Ultimate Magazine, Time Style & Design, and Page Six: The Magazine, are only three of the approximately 211 consumer magazines that folded in the past three months. However, roughly 54 consumer publications launched, bringing the total for the quarter to about 377 magazines closings and 82 launches. Vibe Magazine, one of the major titles of the bunch, didn’t go quietly: the Web site re-launched in August, and a buyer has revived the magazine, planning a print edition for November.

About 36 online magazines were lost, while 14 were launched. Despite there being more magazine ends than beginnings, a recent Magazine Publishers of America study found that more than one in five online subscriptions will be sold in 2009 – up almost 70 percent from three years ago. In fact, the study goes on to say that it’s not all doom and gloom in the magazine industry. Subscriptions are up from the same period last year and newsstand sales have increased in May through July.

According to a study by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the same holds true for newspapers – canceled subscriptions fell 31.8 percent in 2008, compared to 54.5 percent in 2000. “Newspaper companies have made substantial progress with a range of new initiatives as they move aggressively to adapt their business models for success across multiple platforms,” said NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm in a press release. “As the fall in subscriber churn indicates, publishers have focused their efforts on retaining subscribers in key market segments that translate into maximum advertiser value.”

Overall, the four mediums appear to be remaining steady compared to last quarter, and faring better than they did at the start of 2009. While change within the media industry is continuous and sometimes cruel, it’s evident that newspapers, television, radio and magazine will fight the good fight in order to survive and evolve with the times.

— Katrina M. Randall

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