For sheer, unadulterated news, it would be hard to beat 2008, a year that really had all a newshound could desire. A catastrophic financial meltdown, a gripping, divisive and historic presidential election, the wars against terror, the travails of an unpopular president, scandals of every shape and form, and more. Readership and viewership for video and digital-based media were up, sometimes way up, in recent months. Print newspaper circulation didn’t keep pace, but when newspaper Web site hits are considered, I’ll put my money on net audience increases.
Still, the media haven’t figured out how to match news interest with revenues. And this will be the overwhelming challenge for the media in 2009. Can they translate the public’s nearly insatiable appetitive for political, economic and financial news into a growing revenue stream? Will the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and other social media offer sufficient clues for old and new media to forge the foundation of a new and viable news hybrid?
Consider that in November, the parent of the New York Times reported that the company’s flagship Web site, NYTimes.com, saw 10% more traffic in November than the previous year. Still, total Internet revenues for the company decreased 2.6% and Internet advertising revenues decreased 3.8% in November.
Just two years ago, former General Electric Chief Exectuvie Jack Welch valued the Boston Globe, a N.Y. Times Co. paper, at $550 million to $600 million, the Wall Street Journal wrote today. Barclays recently valued that same paper at $20 million. Wow!
Yes, in some cases, old and new media are merging, and in so doing, are attracting a larger audience. The amazing news events of 2008 helped. The public, suffering through a difficult economy yet eager to chronicle Barack Obama’s position in history, is likely to be fascinated with news for some time. This is fortunate for a media sector that must devise a strong business model to tap into this interest. Otherwise more media companies will sidle up to the Tribune Co. and join them in bankruptcy court in 2009.
May you have a happy and healthy new year!