Eric Beecher is the Chairman of Private Media (Crikey, Business Spectator, Smart Company, Eureka Report) and a pretty smart guy. Text Media founder, ex SMH editor … Here’s what he thinks will be the 9 trends to look out for in 2009 in the media world.
1. The impact on advertising of the downturn. By that I don’t mean how much it may fall — that’s cyclical — I mean how much it could change. It’s during really difficult times that commercial behaviour changes, often permanently, and I suspect there will be some big structural changes in advertising behaviour that emerge as a result of this recession. For example, the usefulness of $7000 recruitment ads in the news pages of newspapers (when the same result can be achived with a $500 ad online). The same with expensive real estate ads in print. The same with a lot of magazine advertising. The same with advertising predicated on reaching audiences that are measured by tiny samples or surveys, when a machine now exists (the internet) to measure every page viewed and every ad clicked.
2. The rise and rise of ‘link journalism’ — the idea that the best content on any website comes from everywhere, not just from proprietary content. To see the latest and best of this, go to http://www.nytimes.com/ and click on the EXTRA button. This trend could transform the online content paradigm, and because it is being led by the venerable New York Times it will be widely imitated around the globe in 2009.
3. The growing irrelevance of large public media companies whose commitment to “quality” (of content, creativity, human capital and customer service) only gets tested when profits fall and share prices collapse. Shareholders and owners and senior executives with share options don’t care about these things if they interfere with the share price, and that’s what is happening now. The cost-cutting bloodbath has only just begun, and quality of all kinds will be its victim.
4. The reinvention of journalism: as media companies plunder their cost bases, the funding for all journalism, except possibly online journalism, will be sliced and the standard of journalism will fall — perhaps irrevocably.
5. The importance of content online. This may seem self-evident and trite, but I suspect the maturation of the internet as a content medium is starting to sort the wheat from the chaff, and the valuable content from the rubbish. The SMH and Age websites are perfect examples of highly exploitative content that pretends to be serious because it hides behind heritage mastheads, whilst really it is trivial and mass market and, in the process, trashes two great brands. The people behind this believe you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, and make money in the process, but can you? We’ll see.
7. The continuing deterioration in the health of newspapers. Despite the spin coming from some Australian newspaper companies, it is now obvious that the patient is in intensive care and that the surgeons have no prognosis for recovery. The question now is no longer about the presence of the disease, but whether it is fatal. Let’s hope not.
8. The increasing importance of the ABC and SBS. As the commercial media companies grapple with problems unlike anything they have ever faced, and use crude instruments like knives and axes to address those problems, the value to Australia of public broadcasting will be felt as never before.
9. The sad, sad demise of Fairfax and its journalism. This will become a case study in boardroom ineptitude, management incompetence, the failure of a once-great organisation to understand and manage change, the failed experiment in excluding industry knowledge from the boardroom — but mainly a poignant case study in hubris and arrogance.