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State of the Media: Q1 2011


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Since the hardships the media faced in 2009, each subsequent quarter has seen more positive results, and 2011 is no exception. Although closings and layoffs are apt to happen, the trend for Q1 appears to be stability.

According to Vocus Media Research, 16 newspapers folded in Q1, which is less than the 44 of last year at this time and the nearly 100 from 2009. Of those 16 newspapers, two were online and one was a syndicate. One daily was lost when the Indiana-based Evening News of Jeffersonville merged with its sister paper, the Tribune of New Albany, to form the News and Tribune. Three newspapers went online-only, including the BlogDownTown Weekly, which originally started out as an online entity before trying to make it in print last August.

While there were roughly nine newspaper launches at this time last year, Q1 of 2011 totals about 40 launches, 27 of which are Patch.com sites. Two of the remaining 12 launches are online, while the remaining 10 are print, including two Canadian dailies: Metro Winnipeg and Metro London. Of course, there was also Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, which launched as an iPad-only newspaper in February. It was given mixed reviews that have steadily grown negative as the “newspaper’s” social media audience has reportedly dwindled.

The magazine industry has remained almost completely steady from last year at this time. So far in 2011, there have been 44 print launches and nine online launches, which is comparable to the 45 print and 11 online launches of 2010. Of the print launches from last quarter, 28 were regional/local outlets while 17 were national, a trend that continues from last year when regional magazine launches surpassed national launches. According to Vocus Media Research Group, the regional launches also demonstrate a well-rounded diversity, from Edible Orange County on the West Coast to Kalamazoo Parent in the Midwest and Catfish Alley in the Southern U.S.

Meanwhile, roughly 12 print magazines went online-only, including High Gloss and Cycle News. This is almost completely on par with last year’s online transitions, which totaled 11 in Q1 2010. Magazines that folded totaled around 20, a small drop from last year’s 28 folds. Among this year’s losses were Elite Magazine, Open City, Busch Sports Scene and Continental Magazine.

“Magazines are being very strategic about their decisions to launch in print or to become online only. I’m hesitant to say it’s stagnant growth instead of stable growth since both versions look the same on a chart. But they are trying to carefully price their online ads, they’re waiting for decisions like the one that came down from ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) about counting ads twice for print and online editions, and they’re integrating their print content with their digital content in more thoughtful ways. This causes everything to slow down a bit,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group.

Steady was also the name of the game in television, which exhibited what Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group, referred to as “non-trends” in Q1. “That is to say, the movement we see with staff is very typical. TV journalists in major markets are moving from station to station within that same level as we would expect to see,” she said. “They do this for more money, better schedules or promotions, for example, from reporter to anchor.” In addition, she noted that as most ambitious journalists do, they continue to move from smaller markets to bigger ones. Staff turnover, layoffs and firings are as would be expected, she added. “For example, after a few bad ratings books (In Nov., Feb., May and July), it is normal to see staff turnover for on-air and producer positions.”

Terrestrial radio also appears to be maintaining despite the increased competition from Internet and satellite radio, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. According to a study released by Arbitron last month, there has been an increase of more than two million listeners to conventional radio over the last year, compared to 2009.

Johnson also noted that findings from Arbitron and Edison Research reported that online radio use is up significantly, with one in 10 Americans listening to Pandora Internet Radio, and more than one-tenth of cell phone users have listened to online radio in their car by streaming it from their phones.

The media seems to have weathered this year’s first quarter without any major setbacks. Meanwhile, newsroom changes, paywalls, iPad apps and iPad-only publications like The Daily make it clear that it’s not through mere luck, but through adaptation that traditional media continues to sustain itself.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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