Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chronicles of Demise

In yet another sign of the accelerating death of print media of all sorts, Nielsen Business Media today announced the closure of the 125-year-old magazine of the publishing industry, Editor and Publisher, as well as the venerable book industry periodical Kirkus Reviews. Frankly, as a veteran editorial executive, I don’t think Editor and Publisher has been a very well-executed or particularly forward-looking publication for quite some time (especially compared to Folio: magazine and other newer media industry newsletters and websites). But it is, nevertheless, another marker in the cathartic transformation affecting all media – and especially print media – today.

The simplistic argument about the snowballing death ride of print always falls back on citing the Internet as the cause. This is only partially true. It is less about the Internet per se, than it is about the increased diffusion of advertising dollars across all the various media buying options today. Some of those dollars are, indeed, going to the Internet, but the reality is that less advertising dollars overall are being spread among more outlets. And while Internet advertising is increasing, and print advertising has been falling dramatically, the added digital revenue doesn’t come close to making up even a fraction of the lost print revenue. So those with their tills open for business in both arenas are still losing out, and those trailblazers whose focus is wholly (or even primarily) in the digital realm (whether web, email, mobile, whatever) are squeaking by at best. And for most of those clinging to a solely print-based model, well, the numbers speak (quite loudly) for themselves. That business model is dead and gone for the vast majority of publishers.

Alan Mutter’s recent post in his always perceptive blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, puts the daunting realities facing the newspaper end of the industry in stark perspective – complete with bar graphs illustrating the decline that started well before the current economic malaise. Mutter sums it up succinctly in noting that the newspaper industry (not exclusively print, but clearly primarily print-dependent) has lost almost half of its annual revenue in just the last four years.

On the brighter side, at least one media company is bullish on print media, or at least one sector of it: The 28-year-old privately held Bloomberg media company has been aggressively making its first forays into the acquisition market, most notably with the recent purchase of
Business Week magazine. Clearly, Bloomberg execs believe in the future profitability of business and financial reporting, so they’re gobbling up the bargains to be had in the current market.

There are plenty of pundits today who contend that the only print businesses that will survive the current sea change are those delivering very specialized business or financial information and those serving small niches of enthusiasts who are passionate about very specific topics. Anyone care to sign up for a charter subscription to Tennis Ball Can Collector’s Illustrated?

1 comment:

  1. Following up on this rather pessimistic post (yesterday), is this "Template for the Newspaper of The Future?":