Trends come and go in the media industry, but news remains a constant. Despite this, the nature of the landscape is always changing. As we head into Q2, here’s a look at some of the numbers and trends from Q1:
Over the last several years, newspaper launches have usually been dominated by Patch.com. Not so in the first quarter of 2013. Since January, only three weeklies and one daily newspaper have launched. The weekly papers include the Prince William Times, Prince William Today and the Meridian Press. The St. Petersburg Tribune, which the Tampa Tribune launched, is a daily. There were approximately 20 newspapers that folded, including six weeklies and 11 online news sites. Nine of the online outlets were the Daily Voice’s Massachusetts group, which are online hyperlocal news sites that compete with Patch.com. Meanwhile, Spotlight newspapers closed down its New York-based Schenectady and Saratoga Spotlight papers. The numbers are down in both categories from Q1 at this time last year when 12 newspapers launched and 38 folded. Not so great for launches, but definitely better this year in the closure category.
Several significant trends include the increasing number of newspapers adopting paywalls, such as the Washington Post, which expects to roll out its paywall this summer, and the San Francisco Chronicle and Orange County Register, which launched their online subscription services in March. “Finally newspapers are realizing paywalls are a revenue stream they can deeply wade into. According to News&Tech, more than 400 daily newspapers in North America, about a third of all daily newspapers, had paywalls as of March 18,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group. “And reports at Poynter tell us that 78 of Gannett’s 80 community newspapers have a paywall. We all said paywalls were going to be the next big thing and now here they are. Don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.”
The large number of magazine launches in Q1 last year seems to have been an anomaly, noted Tayne Kim, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. In 2012, Vocus recorded 60 print launches and 35 online launches, while this year there were roughly 17 print and seven online launches, bringing us to a grand total of 24. “Of the launches seen in Q1 2013, quite a few magazines were from established publishers and newspaper publishers,” said Kim. For instance, magazine launches that came from newspaper publishers included Politico Pro Magazine, WSJ. Money and Aurora Magazine, which is published by the Aurora Sentinel in Aurora, Colo. Online launches included Bookish.com, Beantown Magazine and Maura Magazine.
A total of 19 magazines in print and online folded, which included Whole Living, Caribbean Travel & Life and Science Illustrated. “Over two-thirds of magazine folds this quarter were consumer publications. This may correlate to ever-growing online content. Even established daily/weekly brands are consolidating,” said Kim, noting the merging of Daily Variety and Daily Variety’s National edition with Variety magazine.
Meanwhile, a growing emphasis on digital is evident among magazines. Variety dropped its online paywall and expanded coverage of tech to broaden its digital reach, while Road & Track relaunched its website and a new tablet edition as part of an overall revamp.
According to Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group, not many major trends have emerged, but it is interesting to note the expansion of the Al-Jazeera network, which purchased Current TV earlier this year, into the U.S. viewing market. Traditionally, Al-Jazeera TV offers programming to audiences outside of the country. But in Q4 of 2012 and Q1 of 2013, the network added staff in the United States and programming in English. “They’ve experimented with a U.S. audience for the last five years or so with their online English news portal. I think they got a pretty good response and decided to expand to broadcast. In addition, Al Jazeera brands itself as a provider of unbiased international news and I think being accepted as a legitimate news source in the United States would help them to promote that reputation.”
Holley also noted that in Q1, Nielsen announced the number of American homes with alleged “zero TVs” had doubled since 2007 to roughly 5 million. This means that in these households people consume news and other programming online, representing a growing portion of the United States. Meanwhile, companies that capture over-the-air TV signals from local stations and offer the content to online consumers have emerged. “Given all these changes, it is no surprise that Nielsen announced earlier this quarter that it is taking steps to begin recording viewership metrics for streaming video viewing on computers, game systems and handheld devices, such as iPads,” said Holley. “This is a necessary step for the company to remain relevant. They’ve been criticized in recent years for not keeping up with technology and consumer viewing habits. TV stations and networks depend on these metrics. It’s what they use to evaluate popularity of shows and how much to charge for commercials. Ratings directly relate to revenue. Just think if you produced a show that hundreds of thousands of people are watching on their hand-held devices but you have no proof. That would be frustrating.”
Online radio continues to dominate and vie for listeners, including Spotify and Pandora, which says it had 69.5 million subscribers, which is a 36 percent increase from March 2012, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group. In comparison, Spotify has 24 million subscribers and added 1 million in the first two months of 2012. The popularity of these services may be at the expense of traditional radio, said Johnson, noting that a recent study from NPD shows that Internet radio services accounted for nearly one quarter of listening time in consumers between 13 and 35. “That’s up from 17 percent a year ago. Among that same age group, the average time spent listening to AM/FM radio fell two percentage points,” he said.
Meanwhile, radio ownership groups, including CBS, are increasingly making sure their websites are mobile-friendly. One way this is being accomplished is by integrating video capabilities. WJFK-FM in Washington, D.C., for example, now provides a live feed of its morning show, “The Junkies.” “Features like these help differentiate local radio from their music-streaming competitors,” he said.
Despite Internet streaming radio services, it would seem local terrestrial radio is not to be discounted yet. “Traditional radio will continue to differentiate itself from streaming services and satellite radio by using what they have that non-traditional radio doesn’t – on-air personalities and hosts who know the regions and neighborhoods where they broadcast and provide pertinent information to its listeners.”
Despite digital’s increasing dominance, the media industry has continued to innovate, while interesting trends and experiments continue to emerge. The start of 2013 points to a year of change as traditional media continues to adapt and evolve.
–Katrina M. Mendolera