Even before the recent collapse of Wall Street, the media was changing. Newspapers dying! Blogs exploding! But back then, in the halcyon days of a couple months ago, the difference was that there were winners and losers amongst the various media sectors. Now, there are only losers. And a few who will hold the line and claim success, because, hey, flat is the new up. After the jump, a brief guide to the important parts of the media, and how they're getting screwed by financial reality: Overarching point: 39 of the 50 members in the Admarket 50—the most important companies to the advertising industry—saw their stocks open at 52-week lows this morning. Ok!
- Newspapers: Oh man, newspapers are really screwed. As a print product, certainly. Online? They do fine, but we have yet to see how many reporters have to get laid off before newspaper staff sizes become economically viable again. McClatchy disastrously bought Knight Ridder for way too much money, and is now tanking, probably irreversibly. Tribune is flailing around with less-than-stellar leadership and a suffering flagship paper. And indebted papers everywhere—even those bought by private equity whizzes—are in a death spiral. The credit markets are locked, and besides, your revenue will never climb! Outlook: grim.
- Magazines: Somewhat better than newspapers. But not good by any means. In pursuit of advertisers, watch magazines run for either the high end or the low end. No more Bear Stearns ads, eh? Well, just re-target your editorial to appeal to bankrupted traders! Etc. As one sad media executive told Jon Fine about the current ad market, "The auto industry is out. And Campbell's Soup (CPB) is in." That goes for everyone. Outlook: moderately grim.
- Television: From what we hear, projections about the state of TV advertising in the coming year are way too sunny. A contraction is coming, and it will effect everything from sitcom salaries to news departments. But mostly news departments! Let's repeat this line, so that you may ruminate upon it: "The auto industry is out. And Campbell's Soup (CPB) is in." Outlook: grim.
- Online media: Blogs? Not so growth-oriented as they once were. Newspapers? Still trying to figure out how to make online ad revenue match the print ad revenue they're losing. It's the same story everywhere. One bright spot is subscription revenue, which actually seems to be fairly positive. That makes Rupert Murdoch look like a genius for leaving WSJ.com as a paid site (and raising the price!), rather than opening it up to the riff-raff for free. The online audience is going to keep growing; the question is whether there will be enough ads to keep the online news producers happy. And the answer is no, in the near term. Outlook: slightly less grim, but still grim.
See, the media is just like society in general. The ruthless, wealthy winners will scoop up as much of the remaining luxury ad market as possible, and then build a big security fence around themselves to keep out the keening masses. The middle class will die. Job seekers will find only frustration. And the truly bright will find a way to make fortunes selling soup ads to poor people, become fabulously prosperous themselves, and begin the cycle anew.