The second in our series of look-ahead pieces in the sectors we cover on TMB, editor Patrick Smith takes a look at newspapers. Check out his analysis of B2B Media here.
1. Newspapers could lose out online advertising lift
Many newspaper businesses are just on the edge of beginning to see their digital operations move towards profit through a mixture of display, classified, affiliate selling and intelligent brand partnerships.
The Guardian has firmly put its eggs in that basket (while selling the odd digital product, and even those paper souvenirs they put out every day). But free content enthusiasts may have a tough year: Online ad spend in post-recession UK and US will grow but newspapers face missing out on that boom by not keeping up with social media and search players..
ZenithOptimedia, in its latest figures (pdf) has good news for all kinds of ad-funded media owners. Radio is going to rise by 10 percent by 2013, outdoor advertising by 18 percent and the internet by 48 percent. Printed newspapers? A two percent drop by 2013. If you were an ad buyer, where would you put your money?
Sure, newspapers are online publishers too. But their competitors online aren't other newspapers, they are Facebook, Google, Zoopla, Craigslist, and so on, and so on.
2. Free is winning the physical newspaper war
The debate over whether papers should charge for access to their digital products will rage on long beyond 2011. But as for printed papers, is it folly to expect punters to keep paying? After all - consumers are voting with their feet and not buying papers very much. Recent ABC circulation stats speak for themselves (via PG).
In January 2009 the London Evening Standard was a failing paper. Then former KGB agent turned oil and banking baron Alexander Lebedev bought it, made some redundancies, pledged some millions of pounds in investment and turned it into a free paper.
Distribution costs plummeted, circulation more than doubled to 700,000, the title re-connected with Londoners with some astonishing campaigning journalism and advertisers said "yes please".
While at The Independent, another UK title acquired by Lebedev last year, the Russian realised what readers have been thinking for years: "quality" newspapers are too long and, frankly, too boring for most people. Thus i was born, the frothy 0.20 slimmed-down version of the Indie designed to appeal to busy youngsters just as Associated Newspapers' Metro does (my thoughts on that here by the way).
So more titles will go free in 2011, especially at a local and regional level, and more will experiment with smaller sister titles. But - if the crucial distribution deals are in place - free has a better chance of winning growth this year.
3. Intellectual property is the new battleground for success
2010 saw some landmark legal rulings and statements from key media people on the importance of copyright and I think it's safe to say, and not just in newspapers: this battle has only just begun.
The Newspaper Licensing Agency (representing most of the UK national papers) scored an important victory in November in the High Court by forcing paid-for link aggregators to pay for an NLA syndication license to carry scraping newspapers' sites and running news monitoring services (here's the full ruling).
Fear of intellectual property being devalued by digital vandals is at the zenith of media proprietor obsessions; it's the driving force behind New International's paid content drive. Rupert Murdoch wants to define the value of his content himself without interference from Google and the online economy. His son James even dedicated an lengthy speech to copyright's 300th birthday (paidContent:UK has the transcript).
I predict more disputes, court cases, take-down notices and bad feeling between established newspaper publishers in 2011. It's going to be a good year for media lawyers.
What are your predictions, fears and hopes for the year?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below: something I've missed, or disagree with my choices? Here's a teaser: what does success look like for your business in 2011?