Media trends to watch in 2009
As most of the world puts finishing touches on future resolutions and past regrets, it seems appropriate to take a look ahead in a different way –- anticipating the Top Media Trends to Watch in 2009. Best of all, with so much uncertainty afoot, there's almost no way to be wrong, no matter what you say.
The Media Divide -- Educators once worried about a digital divide separating those who could afford Internet access from those who could not. In 2009, I’m wary of a widening Media Divide between those who can afford to pay for high-quality, niche-oriented media (cable TV, satellite radio, Internet video) and those who cannot. As it grows harder for media outlets that make money on big crowds to survive -- newspapers, broadcast TV and free “terrestrial” radio -- will those who can’t spring for standard cable service or Sirius/XM get stuck with the fifth CSI spinoff and eight sports talk radio stations?
Jay Leno -- Taking over NBC’s 10 p.m. weeknight timeslot this fall isn’t just a bet on that network’s future, but a wager for every network’s future plans. If his effort works, expect ABC and Fox to toy with turning from expensive scripted shows to low-cost variety formats starring boomer-friendly personalities. If Leno fails, the once-top network may have dug itself into a programming hole even Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby couldn’t pull them out of.
Newspaper publishers/owners everywhere -- The perfect storm of economic problems buffeting newspapers last year is not expected to ease much in 2009, as consumers migrate more to the Internet, advertisers struggle to keep their businesses afloat and competition from digital technology deepens. As the nation’s increasingly complex media infrastructure relies more on material from traditional news outlets, it’s obvious: The first player to find a new economic engine for newspapers may just save the game for everyone.
Online TV -- All the TV types who sneered as newspapers saw readers migrate online for free content; now it’s your turn. Sites such as Hulu.com, Joost.com, Fancast.com and Crackle.com now present a wide array of reruns and new series where they earn a fraction of the revenue of traditional TV. Spread this trend enough and who will pay for the actual TV productions anymore?
Digital TV -- One broadcaster described his hope that the Feb. 17 digital transition -- where stations will shut off analog television broadcasts in favor of digital frequencies -- might emerge as the new Y2K -- a predicted calamity that never materializes. But it seems more likely that already-struggling broadcasters may see some audience drop away, as a small percentage of TV watchers fail to get either cable or satellite TV service, a digital TV or a converter box to update their television set.
Mobile TV -- As home televisions get bigger and thinner, portable video devices such as video iPods, iPhones and BlackBerrys are getting smaller and sharper, capitalizing on users’ desire to see valued video content when and where they want. But what will this mean for TV companies used to making most of their money from traditional broadcasts on cable, satellite and over-the air transmissions?
You -- Much of the trouble media outlets have these days is based on an increasing struggle to keep up with you, the modern media consumer. When you started reading newspaper content online at work, newspapers beefed up Web sites; the spread of personal media devices led to an explosion of podcasts, downloadable movies and streaming video services. The drive to create your own media led to the rise of YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. What will you push us to give you this year?