Today’s economic downturn is affecting not just banking, housing and automotive, but all industries. As businesses adjust to weather this severe economic storm through reduced spending and layoffs, expensive advertising budgets are among the first to get slashed and the media industry is being hit hard. Print advertising at newspapers was down 16 percent in Q2 and it is steadily contracting. While more ad dollars are still being spent online versus print, Q3 experienced for the first time a slight decline in online ad spending. Print media in particular is being impacted; Time Inc. is undergoing significant layoffs across its multiple titles such as People, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. Condé Nast was recently forced to let go of staff from its newly launched Portfolio, and Forbes underwent a restructuring to combine its web and print operations.
Given the climate, print media has had to make tough decisions. With the bleak outlook, some are testing out new approaches and introducing innovative changes. The Christian Science Monitor and more recently PC Magazine, the bellwether of tech journalism, announced plans to start publishing in a 100% online-only format. There is a small silver lining for online ad revenues; the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers recently reported that internet advertising rose slightly in the third quarter, up 2% from the second quarter, an 11% rise from the same period last year. Yankee Group predicts that the online ad market will reach more than $50 billion by 2011.
Traditional publications are also realizing the benefits of delivering content online to supplement print issues. The New York Times’s Pogue O’Matic and Time’s Channel Podcasts are great examples that continue to operate and produce print issues but have started to post supplementary angles to their print stories in their online outlets. The online sections are giving journalists additional space, where they can write a follow-on piece, include new perspectives, mention other players in the space, incorporate product information, post a video interview, etc.
With more ad dollars moving to the web, news outlets still have to carefully balance the mix of interactive features within their news content so that readers’ overall experience is kept in check. Incorporating various interactive, multimedia formats and social media tools (podcasts, video chats, streaming video, photo slides) enables media outlets to engage readers and push their content out to a broader audience of readers. Increasingly, online news sites are catering to a growing number of readers who want to share, vote, comment on or blog about the article; thus new social media buttons increasingly accompany the articles to support readers’ needs. As print publications expand their news coverage online and include new ways of engaging readers, high tech PR agencies will be afforded extended opportunities to collaborate with their clients on how they too need to leverage these expanding channels of communication, information sharing and reader engagement.