A few weeks back, I was heading out to New York City from Jersey for a strategic planning session for the media and entertainment industry. As I stood on the platform about to jump on the NJ Transit train, I was confronted with the worst possible scenario. I looked down at my iPhone and saw that dreaded message: “10% of battery remaining.” I could not possibly make it through a 55-minute train ride without the latest news. I did the next best thing and grabbed a newspaper. Like many Americans, I get my news from a variety of outlets and media types. In the case of this particular train ride, I chose two newspaper classics, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
That experience got me thinking about the publishing industry and where it’s heading. Official Wire sees the decline, as does practically anyone else following the industry. In a recent article, OW reported that the U.S. newspaper publishing market has been forecast an annualized revenue decline of 4.2% through 2017. The big question is why the shift? Why now? What is driving the publishers to rethink their business?
Moving at the speed of life
In my opinion it has everything thing to do with the need for information delivered in a timely matter and also the ability to share information in real time. To succeed in today’s business pace, firms must share information through different time zones, share information among their companies’ functional areas, and reach across the ecosystem to communicate with strategic partners and suppliers. This is driving Unified Communications platforms and the Global MPLS network that facilitate the information flow.
Publishers are embracing this technology shift and enabling the digital experience to drive businesses forward. They are looking to deploy online versions to subscribers that satisfy readers’ need to acquire information digitally, creating the experience across three screens: desktop, smartphones, and tablets. Let’s look at a few examples of how the publishers are adapting in the face of monumental industry change:
Wall Street Journal – In addition to the WSJ online experience, the WSJ has just introduced a mobile video portal called, World Stream. World Stream is the newest in multi-media solutions that publishers are embracing to differentiate themselves. This is a new asset that gives the WSJ reporters a way to stream video to their subscribers.
Gannett (USA Today) – Gracia C. Martore, Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Member of Executive Committee, said in 2Q12 transcripts from seekingalpha.com, “We continue to make strong progress on our strategic initiatives, including our new all access content subscription model. We’re making good progress as well in our push into new businesses like Digital Marketing Services and sports that leverage our hometown and brand advantages. These advantages put Gannett in a unique position to succeed in the digital age…”
The New York Times – Arthur O. Sulzberger – Chairman, Interim Chief Executive Officer and Publisher of The Times said in 2Q12 transcripts from seekingalpha.com that, “second quarter results reflect the ongoing progress we have made in repositioning The Times Company for the future, led by another quarter of solid circulation revenue growth, driven by digital subscriptions. Last month, The Times launched a Chinese language website, cn.nytimes.com. The site is designed to bring Times journalism to an audience that is educated, affluent and increasingly connected to the rest of the world.”
Multi-media models — Full steam ahead
As you can see the publishers are looking to digital subscriptions, differentiated news, and multi-media models all in an effort to drive incremental subscribers to the paywall. In a recent article in thewrap.com’s Media Ally, Brent Lang shared his perspective on the paywall. “After being battered by years of plummeting earnings and deep subscriber losses, newspapers got a rare piece of good news this week. Newspapers across the country showed modest circulation gains in the last six months according to a report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, thanks largely to the increasing popularity of digital subscription plans.”
Analysts and entrepreneurs say that the rising circulation numbers reflect a paradigm shift across the industry towards paywalls. L. Gordon Crovitz, co-founder of Press+, a company that helps newspapers charge for content online, defined 2012 as the year when “it becomes the exception for publishers to have fully free websites.”