July 12, 2013
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
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The media industry made several serious headlines in the second quarter of 2013, including the seizure of the Associated Press’ phone records, the elimination of the photo department at the Chicago Sun-Times and the erroneous reporting in the wake of the Boston marathon attacks. In the midst of all this, the news industry carried on as usual with layoffs, launches and closures. Here’s a glance at Q2 by medium:
Right on par with the first quarter, there were 20 newspaper closures in Q2, with the majority being weeklies. This included the Saginaw Press and two of Missouri’s Suburban Journals, the West County Journal and South County Journal. U-T San Diego folded its daily newspaper The Californian, while the nonprofit investigative site Texas Watchdog also shut down operations last month because of a lack of funds. Launches also closely mirrored Q1’s numbers at five launches as opposed to four last quarter. The newspapers to debut in Q2 include the Macon Community News in Macon, Ga., the Beaverton Leader in Beaverton, Ore, the Orange County Register’s Santa Ana Register, as well as the Fallston and Perryville Patch sites in Maryland. Patch.com launches have slowed to a trickle, which may have something to do with rumors that the network of 900-plus sites owned by AOL are not doing so well, despite previous reports from CEO Tim Armstrong’s that they would make profitability this year. “I anticipate AOL’s Patch sites to continue to merge together. Patch’s original model of one site for every town just doesn’t seem cost efficient. Look for it to become more focused on two, three and possibly four towns,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group.
Meanwhile, several trends dominated the quarter, starting with paywalls, a method that continues to spread to newspapers across the country. This includes the Washington Post, which began to roll out its metered model last month. As inVocus has recently reported, newspapers are also heavily embracing video. The Orange County Register for instance, recently launched more than one Web series, while the Wall Street Journal is experimenting with documentary-style video storytelling. “It has been an eventful first half of 2013, but I suspect some more interesting things are yet to come. Expect to see more and larger papers provide an “in studio” news broadcast that looks a lot like a TV news show,” said Coates.
There were 14 print and four online magazines launches in Q2. Print magazines were primarily consumer rags, and included Beach, Houstonia and Edible Milwaukee. Out of the four new online magazines, three of the publications were low-risk launches, being backed by publishing companies with success in the online market, noted Vocus Media Researchers on the magazine content team. Atlantic Media, which had a successful launch with Quartz.com launched Defense One; Clique Media, publishers of Who What Wear, launched Domaine, a domestic lifestyle site; and the Financial Times debuted Financial Advisor IQ. Meanwhile, closures topped off at 23 with 21 print and two online magazines not making it. Once again, they were primarily consumer publications, and included Garden Design, Fab, Hers, Celebrity Society Magazine and Oxygen, while several of the trade publications to close were California Farmer, California-Virginia Farmer, the Farmer Stockman and Practical Winery & Vineyard.
A prevalent trend in the magazine industry has been the expansion of branding. For example, Condé Nast has delved into the jewelry scene with its e-commerce luxury jewelry startup and its night clubs and cafés in Europe, while Rodale also got into the retail business by launching the eco-friendly Rodales.com.
There were 42 new shows launched in Q2, including local newscasts, as well as local and national public affairs and entertainment shows, noted Julie Holley, managing editor of TV content at Vocus Media Research Group. Only 11 shows were canceled, including five national shows, two regional sports shows and four local newscasts. Major shows canceled included two of Paula Deen’s programs on the Food Network and NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams.”
There has also been a number of consolidations with broadcasting groups, including Gannet’s acquisition of Belo Corp., Sinclair buying Fisher Communications, Tribune purchasing Local TV and the merger of Media General and Young Broadcasting. TV networks have also continued to reach out to younger viewers, including TouchVision Network, which is planning to launch a 24/7 live video streaming information network designed for Millennials on tablets, phones, television and online.
There were several closures of note in the second quarter. For instance, CNN Radio stopped production of its podcasts and shut down its operations in June. Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group, noted the company had stopped producing newscasts around the country more than a year ago when its syndication deal with Dial Global expired. Disney also announced it wanted to sell off radio stations in Albany, New York, Kansas City, Mo., Little Rock, Ark., Milwaukee, Richmond, Va., Salt Lake City and San Antonio. Despite this, Arbitron’s National Radio Listening Report in June found that radio had added more than 400,000 listeners in the last year, with 92 percent of Americans 12 and up listening on a weekly basis. The majority of the increase, however, came from the country’s growing Hispanic population.
Music streaming services continue to take center stage in the radio industry, as Pandora, Grooveshark and Spotify gained two new competitors this quarter when ITunes Radio and Google launched services. Meanwhile, a new app similar to a streaming service called Swell was introduced recently. Instead of delivering music, however, it delivers talk news and customizes content based on listener’s preferences like Pandora, noted Johnson. So far, it has partnerships with NPR, American Public Media and ABC News.
Closures and layoffs continue to impact the industry, but new innovations help to highlight the resiliency of the media world. The second quarter of 2013 just goes to show that despite the pitfalls, the merging of traditional and digital will persist, moving this media evolution forward.
–Katrina M. Mendolera
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