Monday, January 6, 2014

8 Media Trends You May Have Missed in 2013

The mainstream press has had its fill of articles recapping 2013, but it missed some important trends and lessons that emerged during the year:

Newspaper reaches for a new high
1) New hope for newspapers: The Denver Post has hit upon a promising market for beaten-down daily newspapers: weed. When publishers from other states see how the Post is trying to cash in on legal pot with its new web site The Cannabist, they may be tempted to start publishing a lot of pro-legalization editorials. I suggest a companion print product -- a special section printed on hemp, with an invitation to “Read it, then smoke it.”

2) Why cell phones have a “vibrate” option: A major magazine company revealed the startling results of an in-depth investigation via a news release: “Meredith's Parents Network, the leading parenthood media portfolio which includes Parents, American Baby, FamilyFun and Ser Padres, today announced exclusive new findings that phones and tablets have improved moms' sex lives and texting has replaced talking in their romantic relationships.”

3) The Postal Service is still solvent: For several years now, a lot of us have been saying that the U.S. Postal Service was months away from running out of cash unless Congress did something. Congress, of course, did nothing during 2013 – unless you count the naming of post offices. Still, with downsizing, increased volumes of parcels and “junk mail,” and its refusal to “prepay” retiree health benefits, the Postal Service keeps delivering six days a week and still has a few pennies in its piggybank -- even though it’s billions of dollars in the red. Now if it could just be allowed to deliver legalized marijuana . . .

4) Magazines are not newspapers: For several years, pundits have predicted that traditional magazine publishers would soon go the way of newspapers, shriveling up from massive losses of advertising, circulation, and profitability. But 2013 proved them wrong. Magazines – or, rather, “magazine media” – are adapting better to the web and are finding growth in such fields as events and services. Some had banner years for their print products, with increased ad pages and even some expanded ratebases. Meanwhile, one of the nation’s most storied newspapers was so diminished in value that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was able to buy it with some spare change he had lying around.

5) Print is hot: It wasn’t just that web-only brands like Newsweek, AllRecipes, and Politico decided in 2013 to publish printed magazines. Print is now so "in" that a TV ad for Viagra featured the owner or manager of a printing company.

By the way, Viagra in a Printing Plant? What’s Up with That? had a larger audience and stirred up far more discussions than any previous Dead Tree Edition article about printing. Which tells you something about what printers and us print geeks have on our minds.

6) The digital divide is a myth: We’ve been told for several years that, once people got e-readers or tablets, they would mostly abandon printed publications. Several studies released in 2013 told us otherwise: Tablet owners overwhelmingly prefer printed magazines to digital ones; only 22% read tablet-based magazines on a weekly basis.  iPad owners read more printed books than does the average consumer. And most magazine publishers will tell you they have far more tablet owners reading their print editions than their apps.

7) A business model for iPad magazines emerges: Many publishers had viewed the iPad as a great medium for their publications and apps. But Apple has recently thumbed its nose at traditional magazines, allowing its Newsstand app to fall into disrepair and making it nearly impossible to find all but a few e-magazines.
A magazine that is getting promotional love from Apple's Newsstand

Recent quotations helped me understand, however, that there are at least two paths to publishing success on the iPad: The first is ad agencies: “The target market for iPad magazines is 22-year-old media buyers," a publishing colleague told me. "Selling iPad subscriptions to anyone but your print subscribers has become well-nigh impossible. But having an iPad version really helps you with the ad agencies, regardless how meager its circulation is."

And the other path? Porn: “It is apparently easier to get porn magazines from Russia into the App Store today than it is a bug fix update for a major consumer title,” D.B. Hebbard wrote last month for Talking New Media.

8) The wheels are coming loose on the content marketing bandwagon: 2013 was the year we publishers realized that every Fortune 500 company, and a lot of smaller ones as well, seemed to be copying our every move under the moniker of content marketing. Chanting mantras about “owned media” and “brand journalism,” practitioners sound like devotees of some Koolaid-drinking cult as they espouse the virtues of bypassing publishers to go direct to the consumer.

But the honest content marketers are starting to acknowledge the bandwagon is hitting some bumps. Having the junior member of your PR department do the writing is a cheap way to create articles no one wants to read; there’s a reason that kid couldn’t get a job as a real journalist. Even for good articles, finding an audience is challenging regardless of how many tweets, posts, and pins a brand uses to publicize it. Consumers, it turns out, aren't especially interested in connecting with brands.

Lately, more brands are turning to professional journalism – either by using qualified freelancers or by licensing content from publishing companies – to boost the quality and credibility of their content. And some are also turning to those bypassed publishers for help in promoting their content. It’s a hot new concept known as “advertising.”

No comments: