Newspapers will flourish while they flounder in 2010

1889_Western_Union_Main_Operating_Room_NYC_Scribners_OM.JPGA prediction about the newspaper industry:

All those papers which serve merely as vehicles of intelligence will be destroyed

Lest you think that is a prediction for the new decade, it was from James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald, writing in 1845 about the advent of the telegraph. (via Neil McIntosh)

Bennett also said of the telegraph and newspapers:

In regard to the newspaper press, it will experience to a degree, that
must in a vast number of cases be fatal, the effects of the new mode of
circulating intelligence.

It turned out that the telegraph was a boon to the newspaper industry. Granted, predictions are tricky business; even divining current trends is a haphazard affair

About the same time Wells Fargo analyst John Janedis was upgrading his outlook for newspaper stocks based on a forecast of lower declines in ad spending, Alan D. Mutter at the Newosaur blog was noting that 142 newspapers were folded for the last time in 2009.

That said, here are some predictions for the newspaper industry for 2010:

I think 2010 will bring a wave of consolidation in the newspaper industry. Cities that have more than one major newspaper at the start of the year will only have one at the end as the economy recovers and newspaper advertising doesn’t. Clearly, this trend is already underway – Seattle, Cincinnati, and Denver have already lost their second paper – but I think more publications across the country will tire of the uphill struggle and capitulate. At least for now, however, I don’t think a major American city will be newspaper-less: even though they are burdened by high debt loads, high costs, and high profit expectations, newspapers are still able to attract a large (if relatively smaller) audience. Even if it means raising the price and further slimming the product, newspapers will survive in print…for now.

Lee Shaker, Research Fellow at Princeton University.

Hyperlocal advertising will heat up, delivering another nail in the traditional newspaper industry’s coffin. (Very similar to one of my 2008 predictions, but this time focused on the advertising aspects.) Specifically, it will be more common for a local establishment to pay marketing dollars to Yelp or FourSquare, for example, then their local newspaper.

— Sean Ammirati, COO, ReadWriteWeb.

The Dow will rise by 8% (from its Dec. 31 close), but newspaper stocks will sink as revenue fails to rebound quarter after quarter.

— Martin Langeveld, News after Newspapers.

Boing Boing says Murdoch’s threat to block searches and shroud his sites with paywalls is nothing more than a bluff. Think again. This isn’t a doddering old coot who doesn’t get the Web. Murdoch is a savvy businessman who just might lead an industry back into the reality-based community. With billions in cash on hand, he can afford short-term losses as his properties experiment with strategies that do not involve the essential untenability of giving the product away. And once he proves that a news publication can poke Google in the eye and survive, others will follow suit. After all, if they don’t, Murdoch may be the only one left standing.


It seems only a matter of months before The New York Times starts charging for its online content. For years, readers of the have paid for the newspaper’s biggest business scoops. Bloomberg News expanded in this dire economy, thanks to its subscription model, and even regional papers such as The Miami Herald are experimenting with new ways to make money. (Their latest innovation? Adding a tagline to Web stories to ask readers to donate.) Ugh, as if begging qualifies as innovation.


A “major” newspaper will fail to make it to 2011

We’ve been talking for years about the impending death of the newspaper, in favor of Internet-based news channels.  I think back to our experience with the local paper earlier this year.  We subscribed purely for the reason of getting coupons.  We subscribed to the weekend package (so Friday – Sunday).  Total cost was about $10 a month.  The problem?  We only netted about $5-6 worth of coupons per month.  After 2 months, we canceled the subscription.  Ad revenues are already in the toilet for newspapers, and will only continue to decline.  Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, Mr. Newspaper Man.

In Other Words blog.

Urban metro papers continue to shrink. More papers stop publishing in print on some days of the week; others go to Sunday-only for print and online/mobile for the rest of week; and a few go entirely digital. Unfortunately, we see some more newspapers die.

— Steve Outing, last Editor and Publisher column.

Stop looking for an ad “rebound” because the meta-trend is working against you. “The amount spent on traditional advertising may be in perpetual decline,” says Borrell Associates. As some of the more evolved media companies already know (and the rest will find out soon) the money is going to a broad and highly fragmented array of marketing, from social networks to search engines, custom promotions and rebates. Follow the marketing money, not the ad pages.

Steve Smith, MinOnline.

Local newspaper advertising has been rapidly declining as local marketers are looking for a greater ability to target their messages and audiences. Online newspaper advertising, however, has been expanding.
Prediction: Online advertising for local newspapers will halt its expansion and go flat, or even see a slight decline. The year 2010 will be a turning point for news delivered via the web and mobile devices, which are areas in which newspapers typically do not excel. The exception to this prediction: publications — both print and online — that serve rural areas or are focused on hyper-local news.

— Steve Vaughan, Ballihoo.

(The original “Inter-Tubes?” The photo at top shows the main Operating Room of the Western Union in New York, from Scribner’s Magazine, July 1889.  The image shows the pneumatic tube system for transmitting messages to and from city stations and the 600 operators in the room. Photo from the Early Office Museum)

Now for your predictions …