The latest State of the Media report, published by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, paints a gloomy picture of the US news media. Any cheer the online outlets gain by seeing their audiences rise will be outweighed by the fact that, in common with every traditional medium, their advertising revenues fell during 2009.
One interesting statistic from the report is that, from an ongoing analysis of more than one million blogs and social media sites, 80% of the links are to ‘legacy media’ – that is, the traditional news sources. This means that the shrinking kernel of reporting by regular journalists is fuelling the expanding new media space. Few stories of note currently begin life within blogs or SM. It is no surprise that consumers are resistant to paying for news online – there are so many free sources that it has no perceived value. Of course, this masks the fact that, as the news-generating kernel shrinks further, the diversity of news will decline as well leaving greater volume but ever more dilution of unique content.
Which brings us to the trade and technical media. This has (with a few notable exceptions) been founded on the controlled circulation model, which delivers content free of charge to subscribers who meet the relevant criteria – primarily that they are of interest to advertisers. As we have said before, technology companies need to support their specialist media in order to maintain a credible, neutral editorial platform for their own news. The good news is that the engineering press can actually benefit from the changes that are happening as long as they embrace new media techniques.
An example of this is EDN Europe, which moved to a fully digital distribution model at the end of 2009. The digital magazine increasingly features video content – from the editor and contributing companies – and advertisers are being more creative. Links are displayed in ‘raw’ format so readers can see the type of content they lead to (for example, a datasheet or white paper rather than a company’s home page). The result is that readers are responding and the publisher is able to provide proof of success immediately. Consequently, advertisers are returning or supporting the publication for the first time. At last, magazines can demonstrate their worth directly. Companies need technical magazines and magazines need technical advertising to survive. Let’s hope more follows.