The cracks are still widening, but some light is also getting in

If you’ve been following the media industry over the past year, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you the waves of disruption continue to increase in both height and frequency — so the news that widespread cutbacks have caused dissatisfied readers to flee won’t come as much of a surprise. But while those waves have swamped some traditional players, other parts of the industry have been able to ride the tide, and non-traditional sources continue to play a growing role in how people get their news — although whether that is good or bad is still open for debate.

All of that and more is contained in the latest State of the Media report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism…There’s a lot to take in, but here are what I believe to be some of the key takeaways:

The Bad News:

Cutbacks continue, and consumers are leaving: Close to one-third of U.S. adults say they have stopped using a news outlet because of dissatisfaction over the content — in other words, because they weren’t getting the news they wanted, or the news they expected to get. Survey respondents mentioned both fewer stories in general and less complete reporting, and while it’s impossible to know whether this phenomenon is related to the repeated rounds of cutbacks and job losses, it seems likely…

The Good News:

Demand for news is growing, not shrinking: Although it may be coming at the expense of some traditional players, there is clearly a large and growing appetite for news, since the top news sites saw traffic increase by 7 percent in 2012, according to Pew. And the impact of social media seems to be clearly positive, in the sense that those who have heard about news from friends and family through such channels show a stronger interest in finding out more…

As with any overview of the media business, there will be those who see this picture as a glass half-empty, and those who see it as a glass half-full — and perhaps a growing number who have completely lost interest in the glass because they are already getting their water elsewhere…upheaval is the order of the day in the media business and will likely be so for some time…

Even now there are new entities being born, and new models being applied — like the Forbes “BrandVoice” model, or Sullivan’s direct-to-readers model — that could either be the savior of the industry or a dangerous distraction. If you like bumpy rides with an uncertain ending, the media industry is definitely the place for you.

RTFA. Lots of meat and potatoes to munch on – both form and content. Producers who come from traditional print journalism are doing better than I thought they might. It may be out of desperation as anything else – like sudden insight – but, the truth will inform you even when it doesn’t set you free.

Encyclopaedia Britannica will end print editions

Encyclopaedia Britannica has said that it will stop publishing print editions of its flagship encyclopedia for the first time since the sets were originally published more than 200 years ago.

The book-form of Encyclopaedia Britannica has been in print since it was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768. It will stop being available when the current stock runs out, the company said. The Chicago-based company will continue to offer digital versions of the encyclopedia.

Officials said the end of the printed, 32-volume set has been foreseen for some time.

“This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google,” Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. President Jorge Cauz said. “This has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells its digital products to a large number of people.”

The top year for the printed encyclopedia was 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold, Cauz said. That number fell to 40,000 just six years later in 1996, he said. The company started exploring digital publishing the 1970s. The first CD-ROM version was published in 1989 and a version went online in 1994.

The final hardcover encyclopedia set is available for sale at Britannica’s website for $1,395…

Online versions of the encyclopedia now serve more than 100 million people around the world, the company said, and are available on mobile devices. The encyclopedia has become increasingly social as well, Cauz said, because users can send comments to editors.

A printed encyclopedia is obsolete the minute that you print it,” Cauz said. “Whereas our online edition is updated continuously.”

Search is the deciding factor. There will be those raised with print who find it difficult to adapt and change. They will be followed by generations that will read about that question — on their digital devices.

3rd Edition of Oxford English Dictionary unlikely to appear in print

Publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. A team of 80 lexicographers began working on it following the publication of the second edition in 1989. It is 28% finished. In comments to a Sunday newspaper, Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, which owns the dictionary, said: “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year.” Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said: “I don’t think so.” However, an OUP spokeswoman said no decision had been made.

“It is likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published and a decision on format will be taken at that point,” she said.

“Demand for online resources is growing but large numbers of people continue to purchase dictionaries in printed form and we have no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries.”

The Oxford English Dictionary already publishes revised and new entries online every three months, with a new version of its OED Online website due to be launched in December.

The publisher produces approximately 500 dictionaries, thesauruses and language reference titles in more than 40 languages in a variety of formats.

Ten years from now, I don’t doubt there will be folks who still want a hard copy of some book or other – including the OED. They most likely will be made available as vanity publishers now offer single copies from digital files.

How one magazine plans to offer a digital alternative

As they display in the video, the concept isn’t limited to any single device or style of device. I know from the several regular IPTV productions we watch on the living room TV set – and several more which only interest me; so, I tend to watch them on my monitor in the study – the devil is in the details of how many formats are worth supporting?

I remember the cyber screams of anguish as DLTV’s offering progressed through a couple generations of growth – to the move of 95% of the talent over to Revision3 – as support was dropped for niche formats which garnered a very small number of eyeballs.

How much time and money do you want to dedicate to offering everyone’s favorite format? I’m perfectly capable of handling it in reverse – as should be any geek. If I find something interesting – one time or ongoing – if I can download and record it, I usually can convert it to stream up to our AppleTV and into the HDTV. Or into iTunes or Quicktime and onto my desktop monitor.

National Buy a Newspaper Day – WTF?


As the economy continues to deteriorate, one of the industries that is going to be most severely affected is the American newspaper industry.

The fact of the matter is that the biggest chains are deeply in debt. Major cities that have had at least two daily newspapers for more than a century, such as Chicago and Seattle, might soon find themselves with only one source of news. Other papers, such as those in Detroit are no longer providing daily home delivery. If things get really bad, some experts say that some small towns might not have any paper by 2010.

And that’s a shame. Unlike radio which has become dominated by opinion or TV news which only looks for the 30 second sound bite, the local newspaper digs deep every day to get you, the reader, the full story on what’s happening in your town.

The newspaper is heavily focused on local news. It keeps you informed about events in your town and keeps local government in-line.

So for one day, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, please make it a point to pick up your local newspaper (reading it online doesn’t count).

We’ve had no shortage of discussion about the incompetence of American newspapers – especially when it comes to living on the Web, competing with what’s new on the Web. That graphic up top is from my own local newspaper. One of the oldest locally-owned papers in the country – and just as backwards as the rest.

They hired a few great folks to build a web presence. They succeeded well – award winners on an annual basis for what they produced. So, when times started to get tough – and the newspaper’s owners had borrowed millions to expand the print side of the NEW MEXICAN – they decided to cut expenses exactly like the big boys at the Tribune Group. They fired talent – including the original staff who had built the online edition to the best in the region.

I’m not going into lots of detail. I still have home delivery of the Sunday edition. I drop by the online site a couple times a week just to bust balls on a few local reactionaries. I’ve ended all other participation in their online projects.

As far as I can see, these hard times plus the general decline of print vs online news presents an opportunity. Journalism can be learned. Site development gets easier by the day. News gathering is the crux of the question; but, I’m certain our local, big and little newspapers will be making more talent available for that task. Looks like time to start a local online newspaper.

Cutting out the middleman in ads – sort of

LG Electronics used to run separate advertisements in each country it did business in, and the ads focused on the products it sold: televisions, phones and home electronics. Now, it is introducing its first global campaign featuring a celebrity. And it was not a Madison Avenue agency that designed the ad, but that eminent wrangler of celebrities, Condé Nast…

The Condé Nast Media Group, which created the ads, earned almost $100 million in revenue from custom work like this in 2008. It has created campaigns for the department store chain Dillard’s, the vodka Grey Goose, and the luxury car brand Lexus, which have included in-store events, parties and television programs. The unit demands that all the advertising it creates run only in Condé Nast magazines and Web sites…

A.J.Storinge said he asked several media companies to devise ideas that refreshed LG’s existing slogan. “It started with, How could we add further depth to the equity already built behind the tagline ‘Life’s Good’?” Storinge said. “There is a need to start to give it more meaning.”

Condé Nast executives said they came up with the idea of “Life Looks Good” because it would be understood around the world and would not need to be adjusted to reflect different cultures, although the ads are translated.

It also meant they could suggest other ideas based on the senses to LG and Mindshare: “Life Tastes Good,” “Life Sounds Good,” and “Life Feels Good,” which would mean more revenue for Condé Nast in what looks to be a dismal advertising year. “At the end of 2009, we potentially will have spent more with Condé Nast versus a year ago,” Boden of LG said.

“There’s no celebrity fees per se for this. It’s in return for promotional consideration. The clever part of these integrated marketing programs is finding triangulation: Third party A needs something from third party B who needs something from us.” Zwick, for instance, is promoting his new movie, “Defiance.”

I sold to ad agency types for a short spell in early geek days; so, this gives me a special chuckle. Not that this isn’t a potentially successful campaign. Not that it can’t or won’t build into something qualitatively different within the trade. I just learned early on that you really can bullshit a bullshitter.

The article offers a discussion on the semantics of LG as “Life’s Good” and a segue into “Life Looks Good”. But, I wonder who was the original bright employee who thought of turning LG – which was “Lucky Goldstar” – into LG Electronics?

Christian Science Monitor drops daily print edition

The Christian Science Monitor has become the first national newspaper to stop its daily print edition and shift coverage online in an attempt to reinvent the crumbling newspaper business model.

Starting in April, the century-old, Boston-based publication that is known for its international and analytical news coverage said it will push daily stories onto a revamped website and roll out a magazine-style weekly.

Monitor editor John Yemma said the moves, which could result in a reduction of 10 to 15 percent of its business and editorial staff of 123, are aimed at cutting the company’s $25.7 million budget. He said the new model of shutting down the daily newspaper and focusing reporters’ efforts on the website could be a blueprint for other newspapers.

“By freeing people from the print production ball and chain, we make a much more competitive website and we will help the journalists be much more competitive,” he said. “Everybody seems to recognize that print is on its way out.”

In an effort to hold on to readers, many newspapers have been investing more time, money, and staff to make their websites better, while some smaller, local publications have stopped printing a daily paper altogether to focus on their online operations.

Unfortunately, just as often, many newspapers turn away from Web-based trials and draw back to their ever-diminishing print base. Two newspapers I’ve enjoyed for decades have done so in recent months – cutting loose staff who had built a significant online presence – a distinctively profitable operation in one of those examples.

My subjective analysis? Most of today’s newspaper managers grew up in a business where advertising sales and revenue was generated by order-takers. Anyone who’s ever worked in sales knows what I mean.

Aggressive, content and quality-based sales are rarely a premise of sales and marketing in American newspaper management. Price and cost, the twin virtues of beancounters predominate. The chickens are coming home to roost.