Pragmatically positive predictions for 2009

The Great DepressionThis month’s Carnival of Journalism assignment is tough.

Dave “Digidave” Cohn of Spot.Us suggested we make “New Media Predictions for 2009” and that we might be even so bold as to try to make positive New Media predictions.

Now that’s an assignment in the face of what is shaping up to be the worst year in the history of U.S. media. The headline a week or so ago on a Gawker post “Newspapers Heading Straight Into Toilet In ’09, Says Everyone” sneakily captures the prevailing sentiment.

I’m pragmatic, not a curmudgeon. My co-workers don’t have a hard time getting an “oh me” out of me; I’m not one to see happy days on every sunrise.

As I began to write this a few days ago, I noticed a Twitter message from a talented intern from this past summer at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

This whole auto industry sinking, layoff frenzied, economy drop still feels so surreal. Am I going to have to get a job in fast food?

I happen to think freezing at the takeout window with a headphone as a fashion accessory is not her future even in this admittedly tough environment; bleakest I’ve seen in 30 plus years in the news business.

But yet here are a few positive predictions from a hard-bitten pragmatist for New Media in 2009:

Talent still finds a home. Smart, talented people with skills are needed. And smart, talented people with skills and an entrepreneurial bent can build their own home.

Excess will get wrung out. Media businesses based on bad ideas and media enterprises that have little viability of profits going forward will morph or fold, or both. Those could include everything from startups to the oldest business in Colorado in the Rocky Mountain News. Yes, some good technologies, good ideas and good news organizations will go down, too. Some good people will lose their jobs. But a business is more than a good idea or good product. That’s a positive prediction? For those that remain, yes.

Adversity is a mean teacher, but damned effective will be more true in 2009 than ever before. The focus on change and transformative decisions in traditional companies is being sharply focused by the pain on the bottom lines from the board chairman on down, Imagine taking a nail gun to the back of the hand — repeatedly. We’re beyond “do they get it.” Digital advertising will be a success story for traditional media.

We will see success stories in digital only media businesses dotting the year such as the Huffington Post’s recent round of financing. New New Media fortunes and empires begin growing in 2009.

For newspapers and TV stations, the painful adjustments continue, but we begin to see some equilibrium in expenses and revenues beginning in late 2009. Those that are creative and can survive the surgery without anesthesia are positioned to grow stronger as changed organizations once the economic recovery begins.

The stock market, indeed, begins to recover in mid-year as an improving economy in 2010 becomes priced in. That, in turn, fuels increased positive sentiment among consumers. (One cautionary footnote: No one reads this blog for my stock picking advice.)

Are those positive predictions? From a pragmatist’s point of view, they look positively sunny with patchy gray clouds.

See all the December Carnival posts at