July 13, 2012
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
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The second quarter of 2012 is already behind us and there have been plenty of layoffs, downsizing and outlets changing hands. News organizations have launched and folded, and new trends have emerged. Here are some of the more notable events from Q1:
The big event in the newspaper industry was Advance Publications’ decision to cut the Times-Picayune’s frequency from daily to three times a week. This announcement also included the Birmingham News, the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala., and the Huntsville Times in Huntsville, Ala. “The biggest red flag that goes up when I see what is happening with Advance (Newhouse) papers in New Orleans and Alabama is what about some of the company’s other papers,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group. “Will The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., where I started my career, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Oregonian be next? I think Advance is going to see what happens with the papers in the southeast before it makes a similar move in New Jersey, Portland and Cleveland. Sure it is disconcerting that this is happening, but the news is still being reported and printed. It’s just online.”
While there were plenty of layoffs and newspaper sales going on, the number of newspapers that actually closed was only 22. Out of those, only one was a daily: the Daily Hora Hispana. Meanwhile, Patch.com merged sites, losing eight altogether. This included Maryland’s Odenton Patch and Severn Patch, which merged to become the Odenton-Severn Patch, as well as Massachusetts’ Holliston Patch and Hopkinton Patch, which are now the Holliston-Hopkinton Patch. Meanwhile, there were roughly 26 launches, 15 of those being Patch sites. So they seemed to have recouped their losses in other areas of the country. Other online launches included the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Deadline Detroit and Newsday’s hyperlocal sites for West Chester, Rockland and the Hudson Valley. Canada saw two daily print papers launch: the Metro Regina and Metro Saskatoon.
Launches and folds were both relatively modest in the magazine industry this quarter. Out of 14 closures, six were consumer rags including NFL Magazine and LA: Los Angeles Times Magazine. Altogether there were 36 launches, with 16 being online and 20 in print, which included Cosmo for Latinas, Eco Parent, and Unique Me Mag. Online launches consisted of the Huffington Post’s new digital tablet-only magazine and Coup Boston, a digital magazine. Eight magazines went online-only.
“The magazine launches and closures are barely moving the needle this year,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “Many of them are focusing their efforts on their online editorial content, like Shape, Forbes and Parenting’s popular blogs like the Fertility Files. They’re also working on forming strategic alliances with nonmagazine brands that align with their target audience like Ballard Designs home furnishings partnering with Southern Living magazine.”
It’s always nice to share and the television industry had no qualms about it the last quarter. In an effort to cut payrolls, some stations have been sharing staff or newscasts, noted Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group. One example is KCVU-TV, a Fox affiliate in Chico, Calif. They have been thinking outside the box and simulcasting news from the much bigger KTXL-TV in Sacramento, Calif. According to Holley, KCVU didn’t air any news prior to this agreement. “This came about following a change in ownership at KCVU. This is not all that common. Usually, we see simulcasting occurring in the same market and/or between stations owned by the same company,” she said.
There have been a few interesting events taking place in radio, including the rise of afternoon drive. According to a study by Arbitron, the afternoon drive spot has replaced middays as the time people listen most. “A new study by a company called TVB finds radio is third on the list of media choices, behind TV and the Internet, but ahead of newspapers and tablets,” said Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. “Why does radio continue to thrive? Executives from three major ownership groups (Clear Channel, Katz, and Entercom) say it’s because radio connects with listeners in a way no other medium can match. Their study found, among other things, that listeners have strong emotional relationships with their favorite on-air personalities that benefit advertisers … and radio continues to reinvent itself by engaging audiences on other digital platforms.”
Meanwhile, heat waves and power outages prompted the president of the National Association of Broadcasters to send a letter to the chairman of the FCC, calling for the activation of FM radio chips in mobile phones, noted Johnson. “In a time of deadly tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, it just makes common sense to include a local, over-the-air radio feature in as many mobile devices as possible,” writes NAB President Gordon Smith.
Regional blogs that focus on local and regional activities were big this quarter, along with self-styling and do-it-yourself apparel.
This has been a mixed quarter for the media industry as changes continue for good or for bad. But in the end, the ups and the downs are just a part of the transition that is taking place as the media adapts to this brave new social media and digitally dominated world.
–Katrina M. Mendolera
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