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State of the Media 2013: Q3

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Aside from the government shutdown, other news that dominated the industry in the third quarter included the Time Warner/CBS blackout and the sale of the Washington Post, as well as the ethics surrounding Rolling Stone’s use of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s picture on the front cover. In between the big stories, business went on as usual with launches, closures and sales. Here’s a brief look at Q3:

Newspapers

There were a few more newspaper closures in Q3 than in the second quarter, although not by much. Approximately 37 newspapers closed this quarter, compared to the 20 from last quarter. Out of the closures, the majority were weekly papers. Additionally, the daily Nashville City Paper closed, as well as MyDailyFind.com, an online newspaper which covered the San Fernando Valley. Several weeklies to close were the Raton Range in Raton, N.M., Trinidad Times Independent in Trinidad, Colo., Atterbury Crier in Franklin, Ind., and the Cleveland Post in Fuquay Varina, N.C.

Newspaper launches have been higher in past years because Patch.com launches had boosted numbers.  In Q3, roughly three papers launched: the Macon Community News-Monthly in Macon, Ga., Spanish Times in Utah and the Orange County Register’s daily Long Beach Register in Santa Ana, Calif. Patch.com had no launches this past quarter and instead made the announcement that it would be closing sites and making layoffs, all of which happened en masse in the first month of Q4. Meanwhile, the Worcester Telegram-Gazette shut down a series of bureaus, including bureaus in Boston, Clinton, Southbridge, Westboro and Whitinsville, Mass.

The newspaper industry had several notable events, one of which included the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. The New York Times Company also put the Boston Globe up for sale, with Boston Red Sox owner John Henry making the purchase of the storied Boston paper. Paywalls continue to be a trend, although there was a bit of a reverse happening when the San Francisco Chronicle dropped its paywall, followed by the Dallas Morning News, which took down their wall Oct. 1.

Magazines

There wasn’t much of a change quarter to quarter in magazine closures and launches with a total of 13 magazines launching in Q3. In Q2, there were 18 launches and 23 closures. Four of the 13 magazines that debuted this last quarter were online and included Full Start, Popular Speed, Bustle.com and Enterprise Tech. Print rags included Our Wisconsin, Natural Pet World, Girl’s World and Wichita Magazine. There were notably a number of regional launches, especially by publishers who have done well before, such as Midwest Parenting Publications. The magazine group launched Dayton Parent Magazine in Indianapolis. They previously launched parenting magazines in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ind.

Eighteen magazines folded, two of which were online, including World of Wheels. Two magazines went on hiatus: Spark Magazine and Miabella. Meanwhile, Game Developer merged into Gamasutra, and Old House Interiors merged into Old House Journal. Other magazines to close were Go: Airtran Airways, Parenting Early Years, Parenting School Years and Baby Talk.

Although like all media industries magazine publishers have struggled, there appears to have been some modest recoveries. While the number of ad pages continues its decline, consumer magazine ad revenue rose slightly, around four percent according to the Publishers Information Bureau. That’s not to say there weren’t layoffs. Condé Nast Traveler laid off 17 staff members last month.

Television

There were 53 new shows that launched this quarter, with more than half being local newscasts. In comparison, there were 42 new shows in Q2. Shows in Q3 include Queen Latifa and Arsenio Hall’s new talk shows, as well as a few political programs and national sports shows. Competing with NBC Sports network and ESPN is Fox Sports 1, which launched this past quarter and features soccer, college football and car racing, as well as a number of other sports. Fox Sports 2 also launched in place of Fuel TV, noted Julie Holley, managing editor of TV content at Vocus Media Research Group.  Al Jazeera launched Al Jazeera America TV network, which caters to an American broadcast audience. The Qatar-based network had a previous presence in the U.S., but only as a bureau. “It’s pretty typical to see new programs at this time of year.  Stations and networks want to get these shows going at full speed ahead of the November ratings book,” said Holley.

Radio

Although streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio continue to grow listenership, a Scarborough study found that Pandora listeners are actually listening more to terrestrial radio, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. “The six-month study found that Pandora listeners in Los Angeles, for example, spent 115 minutes a day listening to AM/FM radio, compared to 101 minutes a day for non-Pandora listeners. The study also found that about 95 percent of Pandora listeners tuned in to AM/FM radio each week,” he said. Meanwhile, a new streaming service joined the fray in September when Apple launched iTunes Radio.

As a result of the popularity of streaming services, Clear Channel decided to stream talk programming with iHeartRadio Talk. “The service features spoken-word content, but it also allows users to record their own content for possible inclusion in the official channel library. Content providers include ABC News, Fox Sports, the Wall Street Journal, TMZ and Bloomberg,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, a study released by Arbitron showed that radio listening among Hispanics is high with 95 percent of Hispanic consumers listening to radio on a weekly basis.

Conclusion:

Although Q3 had some notable media news, the rate of closures and launches has maintained a steady pace. Ultimately, the industry continues to grow and change with sales, new models and experiments.

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