And then my heart sank as I realized I had violated a cardinal rule of the International Order of Pompous Media Pundits: In its six-plus years of existence, Dead Tree Edition had never published a year-end list of predictions for the coming year.
With 2015 already under way and prognostication being new to me, I scraped up 50 bucks – Dead Tree Edition’s entire annual research budget – and headed over to Madame Marie, a local fortune teller and door-to-door magazine saleswoman.
Here are her 24 startling (mostly) predictions about magazines, the three Ps (postal, paper, and printing), social media, and publishing in general for 2015. If some turn out to be true, you can be sure I’ll be writing “told ya so” pieces in the next 12 months. And you can blame the wrong ones on Madame Marie:
2) More web sites will jump into the printed magazine business. But they will not be welcomed into the fraternity of consumer-magazine publishers because they won’t have bloated ratebases or sell annula subscriptions for $5.
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4) USPS will announce a new strategic plan called Seven Six Three – delivering Amazon packages seven days a week, other parcels Monday through Saturday, and everything else three days a week.
5) If you think native advertising is bad, wait until you see foreign-born advertising.
6) Mark Zuckerberg’s new book club will spread like wildfire, until people start seeing spammy “sponsored” posts and photos of distant acquaintances’ new puppies in their books.
7) Despite a decent economy, the market for huge yachts will plummet as billionaires join in the new craze for tasteful displays of wealth – buying a daily newspaper. When I asked Madame Marie whether the newspapers would still struggle, she said, “If you have to ask how much money they will lose, you can’t afford to buy a newspaper.”
8) Congressional Republicans will try to push the U.S. Postal Service into bankruptcy to break the postal unions – until voters realize a USPS bankruptcy would turn Forever Stamps into Never Stamps.
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10) Amazon will go back to working on delivery drones.
11) Wal-Mart will announce the development of anti-drone missiles that can be mounted on store rooftops.
12) A major publisher will redesign its web site, then realize the snazzy new look and upgraded user experience can’t be seen on smartphones, which represent 80% of the site’s visitors.
13) “Big data” will be so hot that tech companies will try to differentiate themselves with new projects involving “Really Big Data,” “Huge Data,” and “Massive Data.”
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15) With tight supply, rising prices (for now), and strong dollar, the U.S. will be the market of choice for manufacturers of coated paper around the world. Because of low energy costs and the recent shuttering of inefficient mills, North American producers will be able and willing to protect market share by cutting prices.
16) As usual, “that damned newsstand” will be a frequent utterance of magazine publishers. But in 2015 the phrase will refer to the long-neglected Apple Newsstand for marketing iPad editions of magazines. The regular newsstand system – the one that sells printed magazines – will actually register gains in 2015 after years of declining sales.
17) The content-marketing bubble will burst when non-publishing companies realize how few people are viewing their content and that it's not generating actual sales. Some will find it more efficient to use -- perish the thought -- paid advertising.
18) Trying to ride the next big wave, a former content-marketing/social-media/SEO consultant will publish a book called How Publishers Can Profit From Chris Christie-sized Data.
19) Web advertisers will have a radical idea: Only pay for ad impressions that are seen by actual human beings.
20) Google will pull the plug on Google Plus. No one will notice the difference.
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21) The big news in social media will be a simple new app that lets people share their pain and disappointment by sending out messages saying, simply, “Oy!”
22) Magazine publishers will pour lots of resources into cool new ancillary enterprises that they will brag about at industry conferences. A few of these ventures will actually turn a profit.
23) Some magazine ads will still include QR codes. And consumers still won’t bother scanning them.
24) “Oh, one last thing,” added Madame Marie, still clutching her sacred copy of High Times. ‘Linkbait’ headlines designed to exploit people’s curiosity will take over the Internet. Even your blog will join the trend.” She’s already been proven right on that one.