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State of the Media: Q1 2012

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As we charge into the second quarter of 2012, let us pause and take a moment to review some of the more notable media trends in Q1. Although less tumultuous than previous years, the events of Q1 continue to exhibit the unpredictability of the media industry.

Newspapers

In the last several years, Aol’s Patch.com has made up a significant percentage of newspaper launches quarter to quarter – but not in 2012. In fact, of the 38 newspapers in print and online that folded, 12 were Patch sites lost in a series of consolidations. Meanwhile, only three of the 12 newspaper launches in Q1 were Patch sites, which included Ditmas Park Patch, Windsor Terrace-Kensington Patch and Mendham-Chester Patch. Last year at this time, the number of new Patch sites numbered 27 out of 44 total launches.

In addition to the three Patch launches, five were print and include the Current in Zionsville and the Acres of Southwest Ohio. Almost half the newspapers that folded this past quarter were weeklies including the Fenton Press and Swartz Creek News, which were two out of eight Community Newspapers that shut down in Michigan.

“Unfortunately we were fairly certain Patch.com could not maintain its rate of growth. It seemed to be too much too soon and in too small an area. I believe we will see many more Patch.com consolidations in the next year or two,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group. “And we see the community newspaper is not the most sustainable business model either. A website with a paywall could help sustain such a business model, but that remains to be seen.”

Magazines

The magazine seems to be experiencing a mild revitalization among its vintage rags with the re-launches of The Chicagoan and Collier’s Magazine. Meanwhile, consumer titles like Chesapeake Taste, Celebrity Cooking and New York Cottages & Gardens made up some of the 60 print magazines that launched. This is on par with Vocus Media Research Group’s most current numbers for 2011 that show there were 63 launches in the first quarter of 2011. An additional 35 online magazine launches gave the industry a sound start in 2012.Meanwhile, only 10 magazines folded this quarter, including Sandbox Magazine, Antenna and Art of Wellbeing.

“I think we’re at a point in our industry recovery where we can’t really blame all magazine closures on any one thing in particular,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “We’re also starting to judge the health of a magazine by more than just its circulation. It’s great that we have a consistent number of titles launching again this year in the first quarter, but how many revenue streams do they have when they launch? Are they part of a TV show? Do they have a popular app? It’s getting much more complicated … and fun.”

Television

In TV, several large television networks underwent some changes with show cancellations and a loss of staff, noted Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group. Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN, let go of 30 employees, cancelled the “Rosie Show” and re-shuffled management staff. Meanwhile, CNN cut its in-house documentary production staff in favor of contracting to outside production companies, with dozens of people let go. Finally, Bloomberg cut more then two dozen reporters, editors and producers from its TV division as it evolves to a more digital existence. Bloomberg then hired 15 people to fill positions to the new Digital Video Desk, which provides content for the Web, tablets and smartphones, Holley said. This is much better than in 2009, however, when the network fired more than 100 TV and radio staff.

“These cuts are much different than what we saw in the last few years, are not indicative of bad things to come and are not the result of the economy,” said Holley. “Finances did play a role in the OWN changes in that they experienced very low advertising revenue. However, this happened because their target audience never really tuned into the network in great numbers. With CNN and Bloomberg, they are moving in different directions and trying new strategies while probably saving some money in the process.”

Radio

Online and streaming radio has continued to increase in popularity in Q1, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. Pandora, for instance, is becoming so widely used that Proctor & Gamble had to ban their employees from using it while working since it uses too much bandwidth. According to Johnson, the NPD Group, a leading market research company, found that 43 percent of Web users listen to Pandora, Slacker, or some other online radio option, and that is up 9 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, traditional radio continues to lead the way with 84 percent of Americans listening last year.

“While terrestrial or traditional radio still dominates, it is feeling the pinch of competition from online radio and the slow economic recovery,” said Johnson. “Clear Channel, the largest radio ownership group with more than 800 stations, made a number of job cuts in mid-size markets last month, including cities such as Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, Nashville, Oklahoma City, and Jacksonville. These cuts came on the heels of similar layoffs by the company in small and medium markets during the fourth quarter of last year.”

Blogs

It’s interesting to note that there have been quite a few launches of blogs targeting women who want to get more out of computer technology and the Internet, such as Sugar Gamers, Bizzie Mommy and Glamournerd.

 

Conclusion

Although there is still evidence of struggle among traditional media, new trends and ideas are constantly evolving, while old ones are being ironed out. As new practices are put into place, it’s become obvious that this is no longer a one size fits all industry. Instead, each organization continues to pursue sustainability through experimentation and innovation.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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