Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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Leadership Styles in Media

A fascinating piece by former Emap director Colin Morrison dissected the provenance of the demise of his former employer.

Morrison is a seasoned media executive. In addition to his spell at Emap, he was deputy CEO of what was then Reed Business Publishing (now Reed Business Information ), headed up Axel Springer and is to this day a non-executive directive of Centaur Media. He has seen and been leadership in numerous media entities.

Leadership is at the heart of his analysis of the demise of Emap from being the Apple of media companies — rising at one point to be one of few media companies in the FTSE 100 — to being broken up and sold.

He argues that the when Robin Miller and David Arculus left the business, the two main executives at the company, the character of leadership changed and the business lost its way, most notably by indulging in the ill-fated acquisition of the Peterson empire in the US.

It turns out that the Emap culture of creativity and local decision making was more a result of its leadership style than in the business itself. When the leaders left, it was as if the cultural arm that had made the business successful had been amputated.

Changing times, leadership required

Reading Morrison’s analysis should give us pause for thought about what leadership means in the 21st-century media company. The challenges faced today are far greater than those that Emap had to endure in the post Arculus/Miller era.

There are four kinds of leadership style and they all have their merits, but only one is truly fit for purpose in an industry challenged by shifts in technology and consumer behaviour, increased competition and economic uncertainty.

The charismatic

Not always blessed with the best judgement, and often more in love with themselves than the business they run, the charismatic media leader can command great loyalty (or fear) and be sure that their view of the future is dominant in decision making. They do not always fail, but the risks are huge. The true charismatic leader brooks no challenge and can often, through the force of their personality, win a strategic argument even when they are wrong. A charismatic leader can be malevolent (think or Robert Maxwell ) or benign (like Greg Dyke ). The problem for staff and investors is that distinguishing between the two is normally only possible with hindsight.

Some charismatics think they are visionaries — these are the most dangerous kind. At a time of crisis, do you really want your business run by someone who has visions?

The creative prophet

These leaders are not really leaders at all. They require strong management teams underneath them to implement and filter and nuance. The greatest of them all, Steve Jobs . They do not try to foresee the future, they are the creators of the future. If your business is led by one of these you will be in riches or rags. There is no middle way.

The Processors

It is not uncommon in recessionary times for media companies to find their helm grasped by the finance department, or as in the case of both Emap and Centaur, that the former CFO becomes the CEO. The nature of processors is that they manage all that can be measured – normally a good thing – and even in times of change a necessary condition for success. But when creativity and taking risk is required, this may not be enough. Processor leaders are naturaly risk averse and for many media companies the time for that has passed.

Entrepreneurial Gladiators

These leaders surround themselves with creative and strategic thinkers and operational managers with balls. They challenge everything, even their own assumptions about what is the right way forward. But they understand it is better to do something than to be do nothing in fear that it might be wrong or imperfect.

As the history of Emap tells us, success now is no guarantee of success in the future. Great businesses require great leadership to stay great.



September 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

For print newspapers its all over in a decade

How long will Newspapers last? According to Futurenet – not long.  Their fascinating graphic plots that for most of us, ten years is all we can look forward to.  They even explain why.  Ten years ago we were in the wake of the dot com bubble bursting.  There were no smart phones, no tablets, little broadband and a wave of hope that all the web hype was just that -hype.  We now know that isn’t true, and if Futurenet are to be believed, these are the Swan Song years of the print newspaper.  Soon newspapers in print will only exist in your attic -stacked next to the vinyl record collection and the Soda Stream.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Perfect Storm for Newspapers

The newspaper industry seems to be in denial about the extent of the crisis it faces.  It is in danger of looking like Michael Fish the night before the big storm in 1989. Whilst News International hopes that its managerial blindness to hacking and other immoral practices, will see off the worst of the Hackgate controversy, Trinity Mirror, whose results are published today, has launched a review into it’s own practices.  Oddly, and despite the furore around what Piers Morgan may or may not have known about the hacking of Heather Mills phone, there is to be no root and branch investigation into the past. It is claimed that the Heather Mills voice mail was received anonymously.  Even if true, I am not sure this resolves the matter.  Unless the source was Heather Mills herself, which seems improbable, then the material must have been secured illegally – and Trinity Mirror must have known that.  What is the moral difference?

Intellectually this is the same stonewall approach used by News International, for several years.  But now  the lone rogue reporter defence has been exposed for what it was – forlorn hope that if News International covered their eyes with their hands, when they eventually looked between their fingers the monstrous allegations will have vanished. Let’s hope that Trinity Mirror is not making the same mistake.

Meanwhile The Star, bastion of the fourth estate, is using the cynical tag line “The paper you can trust,” in it’s television advertising.  All the tabloids have increased print orders and launched marketing campaigns to capitalise on the closure of The News of the World.  The management effort being brought to bear on milking every last drop of commercial benefit from the Hackgate crisis appears to dwarf  management concern about their own organisations possible culpability for producing unethical journalism.

Newspaper management teams may judge that their readers will in the end just shrug their shoulders and carry on buying the news, tainted with Hackgate or not.  Remember the faux wailing and gnashing of teeth over the behaviour of some parts of the press after the death of Princess Diana? The press has learned that the public moral outrage over the hacking of a dead girls phone will also pass with time.

Meanwhile the economics of newspaper publishing are brought home in sharp relief this as Trinity Mirror updates it’s results.  The expected uplift in sales of the Sunday Mirror will do little to disguise the full extent of the challenge facing Sly Bailey, the Trinity Mirror CEO.  The share price has dropped by two thirds in the last year.  The serial cost cutting that has been the consequence of dwindling revenues has to an extent shored up the profits but it has not disguised the fundamental weakness of the business. Like every other newspaper group in the uk there is no discernible strategy for getting from here to somewhere where shareholder value is increasing.

When readers are losing faith in the integrity of what newspapers do, and shareholders are losing faith in the future of newspapers, when the economy is teetering on the edge of a double dip recession, when technology change is challenging the very essence of how newspapers do business, the conditions for a perfect storm are arising.

The response to this storm will require a new round of fresh thinking.  I can’t wait to see what a digital guy makes of it all.  What on earth will Ashley Highfield do with Johnston Press?





August 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time for a New Currency to Drive Multi-Platform Ad Sales

I was reviewing some magazine properties the other day.  I was surprised to see that the headline circulation of one of the titles was several times bigger than I expected it to be.

After looking up the titles latest ABC certificate I realised that the bulk of the distribution, some 75% of the total was ascribed to digital editions.  In the modern world the reach of magazine titles is the sum of the print circulation plus digital editions plus web traffic, plus readers of electronic newsletters plus web traffic plus downloaders of apps.

As a result the potential reach of magazine brands is increasing- which sounds like good news.  The problem is that we and therefore our advertisers have no way of knowing what any of this might mean.

Is a web reader worth more or less than the controlled circulation recipient of a print magazine? Is a recipient of a digital page turner edition the same as a print reader, and how do either of them compare with the user of an app? Is a newsletter reader just the duplicate of a web reader?

When we sell advertisements in a print magazine we make an implicit assumption that every reader consumes every page equally. When we sell web advertising we might talk about unique users but advertisers are measuring what they by on a page impression count or even a click through.  Should advertisers be buying the circulation of digital editions on the basis of the number of copies sent or the open rate? If ads in an app deliver a better branding result than web display ads how can that be measured? If an app ad allows “in app browsing” will media buyers insist on pricing app ads on a CTR basis?

The audit bodies, the ABC and the BPA have some work to do to remain relevant in a multiple platform world.  The future development of media advertising in a multiple platform world depends upon there being an industry accepted currency for how audience is measured.  At the moment, as my questions illustrate there is no such consensus.

Would it be beyond the ken of the audit bodies to construct an algorithm which aggregated audience from different platforms and resolved a single measure of reach for a media brand?  It would be controversial, as are all audience measurement systems, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

The audit bodies may well argue that such a project is for the media owners to derive and drive. With so many vested interests that is unlikely to happen.  Either the ABC or the BPA have an opportunity to take a lead here.  Although their paymasters are the media owners, their relevance in the multi platform world depends upon the currency they offer being valued by the media buyers.   They should rise to the challenge before it is too late lest they wither as so many of the print magazines they used to audit have done before them.

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is the Media Industry being Brave enough with apps

Just a few short months ago the arrival of the iPad was being hailed as the saviour of the newspaper and magazine business. After the initial enthusiasm the realisation that apps are not a simple quick fix for the media industries malaise has led to a rapid growth in cynicism and caution. It reminds of the early response of the magazine industry to the emergence of the web: “It’s interesting but there is no money in it – so we will wait and see.”

It is estimated that some 48 million iPads could be sold this year, but other tablets on Google’s open source Android platform will outsell the apple solution within two years (our report on mobile publishing has much, much more on this).

Meanwhile we have already reached the point where one per cent of the world’s web traffic is driven by iPads. That is a staggering rate of growth.

Read the rest of the is post here

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How can journalism respond to The News Of the World Saga?

The only media story this week is the demise of The News of The World.  What does this mean for the wider issues of probity in journalism?  Is this a waterhed moment – and how should the newspaper industry respond to the outrage amongst the reading public?  In my column for www, this week I imagine two letters from the world or journalism to the world of readers.  Which, if either is the more honest?

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do we all need to go bust?

I am writing a weekly column for  This week I have been thinking about whether the media industry is being radical enough to re invent itself.  From the evidence I gleaned at the recent Wan Ifra conference in Zurich, the asnswer is almost certainly no.  Anyway you can read what I had to say about it here,


July 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newspapers Need to Make Transition for Successful Digital Future

WAN-IFRA International Newsroom Summit 2011

The Media Briefing is an official media partner of the upcoming WAN-IFRA International Newsroom Summit taking place ins Zurich in June.  The WAN-IFRA team have put together a great programme which will give some new insight into the future for newspapers – arguably the media sector with the toughest of digital challenges. I am chairing a panel at the end of the conference where, amongst others, we will be talking with Will Lewis from News International – now that will be interesting.

John Paton, the CEO of Journal Register Co. in the U.S., and one of  the keynote speakers and doesn’t mince words when discussing his company’s “digital first” transformational strategy.

“Stop listening to print people and put the digital people in charge – of everything,”  he says.

Full details about the event can be found at

Since Paton’s appointment as CEO in early 2010, The Journal Register Co., which publishes 27 dailies and hundreds of non-dailies, has frequently been hailed as an example of how to innovate dramatically – particularly impressive given the company’s past financial difficulties, which led to a brief bankruptcy and re-emergence in 2009.

“The most important and most opportunistic time is now for newspapers to make that transition from what we were to what we are going to be,” says Paton.

The Summit’s scope takes into account everything from paid-content models to the potential impact of new platforms (such as tablets) to newsroom integration.

Conference highlights include:

– One year on since the new newsroom, by Ralph Grosse-Bley, Editor-in-Chief of Ringier in Switzerland, who will explain how the company has integrated its completely newly designed newsroom with its four Blick products: Blick, Sonntags Blick, Blick am Abend and the website. 

– The quest to go fully digital by 2015 without completely abandoning print, by Erling Tind Larson, who is Digital Manager of Berlingske Media in Denmark. Larson is heading up the company’s B.T. website which is the fastest growing online news site in Denmark, and in the midst of pushing much of its resources to digital. 

– The technical developer has never been more important, by Espen Egil Hanson, Editor-in-Chief of VG Digital News & Media in Norway, which has been at the forefront of everything digital and thrives on embracing the latest technologies to exploit its vast multimedia content.

– The future of news and digital content: mobile, social, apps, ad-supported – and paid? By Gerd Leonhard, Media Futurist and CEO, The Futures Agency in Switzerland, who will give the Day Two keynote. The Wall Street Journal calls Leonhard “one of the leading Media Futurists in the World.”

– Paid-content strategies, by Neil Thackray, Co-Founder of Briefing Media Limited, who will be examining what he dubs “The Great Content Debate”, as well as Will Lewis – a man uniquely well placed to consider the issue as Group General Manager of News International.

Other speakers include: Robert Picard, Director of Research, Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, UK, Wolfgang Büchner, Editor-in-Chief, Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (dpa), Germany, Justin Williams, Assistant Editor, Telegraph Media Group, UK, Alan McLean, Assistant Editor, Interactive News, New York Times, USA, Katherine Silver, Head of Marketing Development, Archant, UK, Dr. Aralynn McMane, Executive Director for Young Readership Development, WAN-IFRA, France, Sarah Schantin Williams, Senior Associate Consultant, WAN-IFRA, Germany, and more. 

For the evolving conference programme, registration and other information, please consult

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How do you run a conference in a digital age? The same way, but smarter

Although some people thought a conference about running conferences organised on April 1 must be some sort of a joke, the Conference for Conference Professionals was anything but funny.

Its mission: to find out the health of the conference business. In a vote at the beginning of the day, only seven percent of delegates thought the standard conference format was “Engaging informative and highly valuable”. But despite that, only 16 percent of delegates admitted that their own organisation needed fundamental change.

What does this mean? It shows the idea the events industry is largely unaffected by the digital revolution is a myth.

Informa , Incisive adapting their events models

– In a video interview, Peter Rigby, CEO of Informa, said that his business been had been robust, not least because his company has been only marginally affected by declining advertising revenues. Rigby argued the digital revolution had aided the conference business: so much work is now done in front of a screen, he claimed, that meeting people was more important than ever. However he acknowledged that events of the future had to be “different and exciting”.

Tim Weller of Incisive Media said that small event organisers that don’t inspire and motivate delegates to engage with a brand more than once a year will stay small organisers.

Conference biz too complacent?

It’s possible that the greatest threat to the conference industry is complacency born of the relative robustness of the model during the last recession and the continuing media revolution. While readers and advertisers have been steadily shifting away from print, leading to wholesale strategic shifts in most print media companies, the conference delegate and sponsorship market has trundled on.

Does that mean event organisers can ignore the media revolution around them? For some delegates that is precisely their plan. It could even be most of them. During a Q&A session, one attendee argued that his target market were not users of social media. He scornfully dismissed the Twitterfall being displayed on the stage and said that it might be relevant to his business in ten years’ time, but not today.

As I listened I was reminded of print publishers 15 years ago. Our print brands will see us through, many argued. Is the conference industry making the same mistake?

Livestreaming cannibalisation worry

Many delegates said they were worried livestreaming their events via online video would compromise delegate sales – just as print publishers worry web publishing cannibalises offline reading. Only a few understood that streaming is a great way to expand your audience – the trick is to make sure that the live attendee experience is not the same as the streamed experience. What is the point of attending a live event if the experience is no more interesting than watching it on a computer screen?

Some event businesses are stretching their competencies in new and exciting ways. United Business Media Loading… companies united-business-media claimed to be running more than 100 virtual events a year, not including its webinar programme. Whether you think virtual shows are compelling or not, you could not accuse UBM of ignoring the opportunity to experiment.

TED events engage online and offline

Greg Hitchins of Terrapin pointed to the success of TED which not only runs great events but has developed compelling ways for non-attendees to engage with the brand online.

As Hitchin put it out: “Most of the TED talks are pretty damn slick. Some people take six months to prepare but many presentations at our conferences look like they haven’t been prepared at all.”

What is the main challenge here? It’s same one being faced across the media: how to put the delegate, or customer, at the centre of all you do. In practical terms:

– What can we do to engage with visitors on the 364 days of the year they are not attending our event?
– How can we improve the experience of attending a conference event. As one delegate pointed out, the days of back to back Powerpoint presentations are over?

There were no more than half a dozen twitterers at this event. Many delegates complained that they could not submit questions to the panel using the mobile app provided as they did not own a smartphone. There was palpable resistance to the benefits of social media ( LinkedIn , Facebook and the like). One delegate asked: “Are we really saying that if I have 200 events that I now have to run 200 social media groups?” Er – yes!

The event industry is only at the beginning of this journey

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Is Google Playing Fair?

Forbes has got itself  into trouble with Google for selling links.  Google polices this pretty aggressively arguing that such practices game the system and compromise the integrity of search results.  The question for us to think about is whether this is fair and reasonable on Googles part.

In essence, Google presents results based on popularity.  The more backlinks you have, the and the more backlinks your backlinks have, then the higher your page rank will be.  The algorithm is much more complex than that of course – and only Google knows exactly how it works.  Google has total control over how search results are presented and is also the largest purveyor of search advertising on the planet.  One way to guarantee getting your links on the first page of Google, is to pay Google loads of Adwords money.

So if it is not unethical for Google to sell access to top search results, why is it unethical for Forbes to allow its customers to back into their page rank for money and improve their own score on Google.  Well, although Google likes to dress all this up as being part of its fair practice guide, many observers have thought that this is nothing more than protectionism from a dominant player in the market.

Google is the primary access point on the web for search – by miles.  So if you expect lots of web traffic from search then you have to play the Google game.  But this is a funny game.  Lets think of Google as being the “do no evil” referee for fair search on the web.  OK. I can live with that.  But the problem is that it is only Google who knows all the rules – and when they suspect that too many of us are beginning to undestand the rules (through SEO, link selling etc) the referee in this game, can change the rules.  Oh and the ref won’t tell you exactly how those rules have changed.  Even if they did,  it wouldn’t make much sense because we never really understood what they were in the first place.

So Google is the self appointed referee in the Search game.  But it also has the biggest team in the league -selling more online advertising than the rest of the planet put together.  It makes sure that whatever happens their team wins.  They can’t blamed for that of course.  They have a business to run and will compete competively and aggressively to protect their position.

Now look at the announcement about the Google paid content model.  This is Google presenting itself as the publishers friend.   Eric Schmidt says that he will let publishers have access to customer data (Apple won’t) and will charge just 10% (compared to Apples 30%).  In the paid content on apps market – Apple is the referee and is excercising its market muscle.   Google is trying to steal its ball and in the  meantime will be much more flexible in paid content than it is in search where it all but owns the search ad market.

So a basic lesson in micro economics. The little guy will always work harder to give great price and service than the big guy.  Until they become the big guy.  It was ever thus.

Even so we should not stand by as casual spectators of all this. We are players in this game and it might be time to argue with the ref a bit.  These are some of the questions we should be asking.

  • Is the audience you get from search your audience, or is it Google’s?
  • Should Google be able to stop you trading your popularity by selling links on threat of cutting you off from that natural search traffic?
  • If Google is the dominant search player and it is going to set the rules and police them, shouldn’t it be completely transparent about how its algorithm works?
  • If Google can sell ads next to your search result which by Googles own argument must reflect the quality of what you do, why can’t you sell ads that capitalise on your search popularity? (ie selling links)

These issues are complex. What do media owners think about this?  What do the Ad networks think?  What do the clients think? Come to that, what do I think?

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Media Industry Predictions for 2011

Social Media


The notion of a tipping point is cliché, but something is going on.  Only the other day I saw a banner on a used car showroom saying “Follow us on Twitter”.  What was once the domain of the tech wonks is now mainstream.  Social media will become the key growth component of traffic marketing and developing user engagement.  Watch all those SEO agencies transform themselves into social media marketing experts!

Of course the problem with social media is that it’s not a business – not even for Twitter – so for media companies learning how to do social media, it is a culling issue.  Fail to do it and you will die.  Get into it, and you are still in the game.  Social media is not a panacea for anything, but its use has become an essential part of the marketing mix.  There will be a gradual change in approach though.  The current fashion for collecting as many followers as possible (look at @piersmorgan trying to get 100,000 followers in as short a time as possible) will be slowly replaced by ultra-niche targeting – perhaps not for consumers tracking celebrities, but certainly for serious business users.




Nobody gets very excited about print advertising these days.  There is a growing realisation amongst those I talk to, that it is not the Internet ad model which has disappointed, but that rather it has shown up how overpriced and over-rated print advertising always was.  In the Internet world, if I spend £2000 on ad words I might expect to reach half a million contextually relevant users and know that my ad has appeared on a page those people were looking at.  In print I could spend that on an ad in a magazine with 50 other ads all trying to get the attention of a few tens of thousands of readers.  I know that many will argue that the print and online ad experience is not really comparable (where is the brand building in online/ the difference between a lean back and lean forward experience etc)  but the  pricing difference is too big to be explained away by such nebulus concepts) .

Of course the Internet doesn’t have to pay the costs to cut down trees and put ink on them, but advertisers don’t care. They just want ROI.  In 2011 the notion of advertising will go back to its roots.  It will be about the means by which a vendor can get their message in front of a relevant person at a relevant time in an engaging way.  Just as television is about to allow product placement in the UK, marketers will use ever more ingenious ways of influencing engaged users through content.




We are only at the beginning of this story.  Calling something a paywall is like calling every kind of shot in football a kick.  There are as many ways to charge for content as there are ways to kick a ball.  In 2011 the industry will move on from arguing about pay or free and start thinking about what the best way to engage and monetise an audience might be.  The key metric will be ARPU. The answer to that question will certainly have a content debate at the heart of it.  What kind of content can be charged for?  Does pretty packaging (IPad) mean you can charge less or more?  Why should content cost more than an app?  Is an app content? What is the value price for my content, and is that sufficient to cover my costs?  So in 2011 the debate (perhaps starting at our Paywalls Strategies conference on February 24th) will grow up.


Traditional Media Companies


Most have had a better year in 2010, not least because 2009 was so awful the comparisons are easy to beat. Most of the industry leaders we have met and interviewed in the last few months seem to have a good handle on where their businesses need to go, but not enough of them are moving fast enough and some are still fearful of taking any action which may destabilise the legacy business.

In 2011 we will see an acceleration in development spend and action from the traditional media companies. Yes, there will be more sell offs and closures, but the direction of travel will become clear.  What is uncertain is whether they all move fast enough down the road before they are overtaken by new players.



The New New Thing


If we have learned anything about the Internet economy it is that it moves faster than most organisations ability to adapt.  Our internal view at Briefing Media, is that the coming thing is curation.  It is a topic that has been bubbling under for a year or two and has begun to be more mainstream in 2010, with a couple of conference events and some interesting online debate from many quarters on both sides of the Atlantic.  The premise of curation (it is not aggregation), is that some kinds of content are more valuable and useful if they are organised and contextualised.  The very essence of curation is that although technology plays a part, human editing is vital.  That’s why we spend a lot of time improving our taxonomy, making it unique to our community needs.

Why does curation matter? In a world where the quantity of information only ever expands the need for specialist content sets, sophisticated disambiguation and taxonomy grows.  The more specialist the topic, the more important some human expertise becomes.  There seems little doubt that users will be drawn to well executed curation solutions to enhance the relevancy of their content consumption.  Where users go media companies will surely follow.  In 2011 we expect Briefing Media to launch in more verticals (that’s inside knowledge for you!) but we also expect other media companies to experiment with content curation tools and deployments too.




“We are all journalists now,” say the enthusers of the world of citizen journalism.  That must mean there is an oversupply of content. And that means the price falls.  Try writing for Demand Media and you will quickly learn the harsh economics of content oversupply.  If for the first time in history, everyone can write something and publish it themselves, without pay, what is the future for the professional journalist?  Now, let’s not get sentimental about the Sunday Times Insight team or Bernstein and Woodward, as if the demise of investigative journalism is the issue.  Most journalists are working hacks, and I mean that as a complement.  It’s not about world changing scoops (although we would all love one), its about covering your beat with vigour for the truth, balance and integrity.  It is about building a suite of content that keeps readers coming back to you over and over again.  The future for journalism has never been brighter.  Journalists have more tools at their disposal than ever before, blogs, video, audio, social media.  Research has never been easier to do badly (over reliance on Wikipaedia!) but by the same argument it has never been easier to do it well.

In 2011 the edges around the definition of what distinguishes a journalist from other content creators will become sharper.  He or she will be a curator of their beat with all that entails.

Happy New Year to you all.




December 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

What happened to my 2010 Media Industry Predictions?

This time last year I made a number of predictions for 2010 so its time time to review those and make some new ones for 2011.

My first prediction last year was;

“Print advertising revenues will continue to decline but at a slower rate than last year. Some management teams will call this as signs of the green shoots of recovery. It won’t be. The downturn in print advertising will turn out to be L shaped.”

Well it seems the jury is out about this.  If you look at the stories about print revenues there is a mixed bag of news.  Some say that is recovery, some not.  2009 was so awful it is perhaps with hindsight not surprising that some media companies saw an improvement.  Across the board though, with  the recession behind them, publishers are reporting smaller declines in print revenue. But they haven’t seen the kind of rebound that would make up for steep declines in 2009.  Watching short term trends is a mugs game, so we have to keep a long view – and in that I haven’t changed my broadly pessimistic mind.

My second prediction was

“The current craze for putting content behind a pay wall will deliver some returns but they will turn out ot be much smaller than the continuing decline in print advertising.”

This has been the year of the paywall experiment.  The most extreme version has been The Times total lockdown.  The results aren’t yet clear, but most of the analysis seems to conclude that the scale of uptake is not yet big enough to make a business.  There is no shortage of experimentation as we have curated here and judging by the response we have had to our Paywalls Strategies Conference, no shortage of interest.  For 2010 the prediction was right, but the paywall game is not over.  There is a growing realisation that there are many models to try (an analysis of all them is in our Paywall Strategy Report – £895.00 or free when you register for the conference) and these models will mature in time.

My third prediction for 2010 was;

” More magazines are going to close. They don’t need to, but unless publishers take an entirely new approach to the problem there will be little chance of survival for even some of the biggest magazine brands.”

Sadly I was on the money here.  There have been hundreds of closures both here and  in the US, although there is some evidence that the rate of closure is slowing.  What might otherwise have been closed has been sold with a most notably a plethora of sales from IPC Magazines during the year.

Prediction number 4 was

“The rush to exploitation of network marketing will continue and there will be an explosion in marketing services companies offering advice to b 2 b marketeers.”

Social media marketing has been the buzz of 2010.  Twitter has come of age as a powerful tool for media owners.  We are only on the low slopes of this revolution however.  As media companies start to come to terms with how the tools are used we can expect a growing level of sophistication in social media strategies.  There are two dangers for media companies however. The first is that the clients, the advertisers, have the same access to social mediaand are learning too, often without the intermediary help of media owners, and second, the pace of change means that it is quite possible that by the time the media industry has worked out how to use the current band of social media tools, the users will have moved on to the next generation.

Prediction number 5 was alomost entirely wrong.  I said that

“Fear, panic and shareholder pressure will lead to wholesale changes in the senior management teams of some business media companies.” For the most part the leaders of national newspapers, regional newspapers and magazine businesses have stayed the same but there have been big changes in the middle management of most.  The interviews we have conducted with leaders suggest that most leaders have now got a good analysis of the problem.  The 2011 test will be how they lead their organisations to a growth solution.

My final prediction of  last year?

“A new disruptive business media company with no legacy will make a noticeable impact on the market.”

Well, I confess that was a bit naughty.  This time last year we were in the early planning stages for the launch of Briefing Media Ltd.  It took us a little longer to get ready for launch than we thought, eventually releasing our first product on September 28th.  We hope to have our second vertical service released by the end of the first quarter of 2011.  It is early days yet, but what is already clear is that our solution is getting great traction with readers and commercial partners.  Rory wrote a good summary of our first ten weeks.  We have exciting plans for 2011 and we look forward to working with you all.

Later in the week I shall be posting my predictions for 2011.  In the meantime, thanks to all our expert contributors, to all of you who retweeted The Media Briefing, to the thousands who have registered for newsletters or to access our personalisation tools, to the fine folk at Abacus e Media, Atypon, Forrester and others who are working with us on our first conference, the clever folk at Idio whose technical brilliance has constantly impressed us – thank you all and a Happy New Year.


December 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment