Friday, December 31, 2010

The year 2010 in review

Inspired by my friend Richard Floyd's ruminations about his 2010 blogifications, here's a rundown on how News after Newspapers was read this year.

To the extent Google Analytics tells a real story — there are many visits by folks clearly searching for something else who stick around for just two or three microseconds — visitors in 2010 came from 108 countries (missing: Central Asia, Central Africa, Bolivia, Greenland and a few Central American countries), and all 50 states. There were 11,532 visits in total, 14,584 pageviews, and 8,478 individual visitors. On average, you spent 57 seconds on site, which is not enough to read the average post, so obviously, a lot of you bailed out early. On the other hand, most of my posts here were just trailers for the full posts over at NiemanLab, where the average post got at least 1,000 hits.

I managed to put up 20 posts this year versus 75 in 2009 and 66 in 2008 (and I started in September of 2008), so it's been a slow year. Nevertheless, overall traffic this year was down just about 5 percent from the year before.

What you liked, based on pageviews:

1. iPad strategies for publishers — I must admit, I still don't have one — an iPad that is.  But I've played with one, and I think so far the strategies outlined in that post are looking valid. (See also that post's precursor, with the same thoughts somewhat less polished.)
2. Groupon's revenue pace — I predicted a $350 million annual pace back in April. That seemed pretty preposterous at the time (they only came out of beta about a year before), but the actual result, astoundingly, seems to be closer to $1 billion.
3. Are newspapers doomed? — This is a 2008 post that continues to get traction. The answer, if you don't want to peek, is yes.
4. Out on a limb again: Predictions for 2010 — You can check on how those prognostications turned out here. I had more hits than misses, overall.
5. A roundup of media predictions for 2010 — This is a beat that NiemanLab has taken over in spades, with an all-star series of 2011 predictions posted during December, including my own.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Predictions 2011: More digital convergence, AP Clearinghouse, more trailblazing from John Paton's JRC

Continuing an annual tradition here at NaN, here are my prognostications for 2011 (posted also at Nieman Journalism Lab). See also my earlier post with predictions for 2020.

Digital convergence: News, mobile, tablets, social couponing, location-based services, RFID tags, gaming. My geezer head spins just thinking about all this, but look: All these things will not stay in separate silos. Why do you think AOL invested $50 million or more launching Patch in 500 markets, without a business model that makes sense to anyone? What’s coming down the pike is new intersections between all of these digital developments, and somehow, news is always in the picture because it’s at the top of people’s lists of content needs, right after email and search. There are business opportunities in tying all of these things together, so there are opportunities for news enterprises to be part of the action. Some attempts to find synergies will work, and some won’t.

But imagine for a moment: personalized news delivered to me on my tablet or smartphone, tailored to my demographics, preferences, and location; coupon offers and input from my social network, delivered on the same basis; the ability to interact with RFID tags on merchandise (and on just about anything else); more and more ability not only to view ads but to do transactions on tablets and phones — all of these delivered in a entertaining interfaces with gaming features (if I like games) or not (if I don’t). In other words: news delivered to me as part of a total environment aware of my location, my friends, my interests and preferences, essentially in a completely new online medium — not a web composed of sites I can browse at my leisure, but a medium delivered via a device or devices that understand me and understand what I want to know, including the news, information and commercial offers that are right for me. All of this is way too much to expect in 2011, but as a prediction, I think we’ll start to see some of the elements begin to come together, especially on the iPad.

The Associated Press clearinghouse for news. Lots of questions here: Will be it nonprofit or for-profit? Who will put up the money? Who will be in charge of it? What will it actually do? It will probably take all year to get the operation organized and launched, but I’m going to stick with the listing of opportunities I outlined when news of the clearinghouse broke. I continue to believe that the clearinghouse concept has the potential to transform the way that news content is generated, distributed and consumed. (Disclosure: I’m working on a project with the University of Missouri to explore potential business models enabled by news clearinghouses.)

How I made out with my 2010 predictions

Time to look back on my predictions for 2010, posted December 17, 2009. Here are the full texts of the predictions, with outcomes, as near as ascertainable at this point. (Posted also at Nieman Journalism Lab)

Newspaper ad revenue
PREDICTION: At least technically, the recession is over, with GDP growth measured at 2.8 percent in Q3 of 2009 and widely forecast in Q4 to exceed that rate. But newspaper revenue has not followed suit, dropping 28 percent in Q3. McClatchy and the New York Times Company (which both came in at about that level in Q3) hinted last week that Q4 would be better, in the negative low-to-mid 20 percent range. This is not unexpected — in the last few recessions with actual GDP contraction (1990-91 and 2001), newspaper revenue remained in negative territory for at least two quarters after the GDP returned to growth. But the newspaper dip has been bigger each time, and the current slide started (without precedent) a year and a half before the recession did, with a cumulative revenue loss of nearly 50 percent. Newspaper revenue has never grown by much more than 10 percent (year over year) in any one quarter, so no real recovery is likely. This is a permanently downsized industry. My call for revenue by quarter (including online revenue) during 2010 is: -11%, -10%, -6%, -2%.
REALITY: CLOSE, ONE CIGAR. Actuals for Q1, 2, and 3: -9.70%, -5.55%, – 5.39%. And Q4, while not a winner, will probably be “better” than Q3 (that is, another quarter of “moderating declines” in news chain boardroom-speak). So, a win on the trendline, and pretty close on the numbers.

Newspaper online revenue
PREDICTION: Newspaper online revenue will be the only bright spot, breaking even in Q1 and ramping up to 15% growth by Q4.
REALITY: CLOSE, ONE CIGAR. Actuals for Q1, 2, and 3: +4.90%, +13.90%, and +10.7%. Since Q1 beat my prediction and was the first positive result in eight quarters, I’d say that’s a win, and pretty close on the ramp-up, so far. Q4 might hit that 15%.

What will journalism look like 10 years from now?

Over at NiemanLab, there has a been a litany of predictions for journalism for 2011; my own should be in the works over there.

But at Quora, where I'm a member, somebody asked, "What will journalism look like 10 years from now?" This is a good question, because year-to-year changes don't always reflect the long-term trends. Here's the answer I posted:

There are those who say that only trained professionals can practice journalism, but as a practical matter, journalism will continue to be practiced by a range of people with professionals at one end and amateurs at the other, publishing via a range of channels with large commercial and non-profit news organizations at one end and individual bloggers at the other.

Some of these will have paid access, some will be free; some will be on paper, some on websites, some on apps, some on other channels, and many on some combination of these distribution methods. Journalism will be fully platform-independent. But although platforms and cost are not directly relevant to how journalism will be practiced, they do affect how journalists may earn a living. So lets look at ways the work of journalists across the spectrum may change over the next ten years:

More freelancers: Individual journalists will have enhanced ability to earn a living by selling directly to news consumers, which will better enable them to operate outside of traditional news organizations and sell their content in multiple ways including syndication, curated channels, individually branded channels.