New Analysis: Old Media Magazines Losing Share Online Despite Their Great Brands

Despite their coveted value, the great brands of old media aren’t proving out to be much of an asset online.  And to the extent old media is relying on the value of their brands to ensure a digital future, they are headed in the wrong direction.

For this new analysis for Digital Quarters, we measured audience and visits (from comScore) for sites across the major media categories, comparing the metrics of sites operated under old media brands (e.g. ABC, Entertainment Weekly) in each category to those of new upstarts.  Over the past year old media brands lost share of online audience to new media in nearly all of the traditional magazine categories (TV, entertainment, business, fashion, tech, and teens), while the offline brands in the News category grew share during that same period.    Although total visits were up 5% for old media, new media visits grew far faster — 10% — from April 2009 to April 2010, leading to share loss for old media in six out of the eight categories that we tracked.

Old Media Share Online

Overall visit growth was positive in all media categories other than TV, but despite this, old media brands experienced an absolute visit decline in Entertainment News and Teens which are rapidly shifting towards new media sources.

Conventional wisdom has held that building a brand is a momentous challenge in developed spaces such as media; and that disproportionate returns accrue to the most established brands. But my new analysis shows that legacy brands are on the defensive, far more threatened by new entrants than the other way around.  The upshot appears to be that upstarts’ execution is earning new audiences (and building their new brands), drawing audience on average away from more established players.

The reason for this shift, and the dominance of new media in categories such as Tech News is simply that the old media magazine model is ill equipped to compete with more nimble online competitors.  For the most part, weekly and monthly publications are struggling to keep up with the new pace of information exchange and social interaction demanded on the web.  Understandably, the value to consumers of days, weeks, or months-old “news” on fashion trends, celebrity gossip, and technology is far lower in the presence of up-to-the-minute coverage from new sites.

comScore April YOY Visits Growth

However, the success of offline brands in the News category offers hope for other old media brands.  Companies such as The New York Times, BBC, and ABCNews have grown their online presence and are clearly investing in digital as core to their business.    They are actively experimenting with rich media, social marketing, and engaging their audience.    But while news outlets have always operated on a fast pace, magazines are at a particular disadvantage in that they are not structured to turn information around quickly.  For old media magazine brands to maintain or grow share, they’ll need to go further by transforming their organizations, incentives, and sources and embracing the new definitions of publishing quality to provide the experiences that consumers are now seeking online.  With online share falling — in some cases dramatically — now is the time for offline legacy publishers to take action and get their brands working harder before it’s too late.

Methodology

Source: comScore panel-only visit data for April 2009, July 2009, September 2009 (panel only was unavailable for October), January 2010, and April 2010, including only properties with more than 500,000 monthly unique users.   Properties were manually categorized into old media if they originated offline, and new media if they are entirely online or originated online (e.g. TMZ and MSNBC are considered new media).  comScore category names: Business News/Research (Bus News); Entertainment – News (Ent News); Beauty/Fashion/Style (Fashion); Lifestyles;  News/Information (News); and Technology – News (Tech News); Teens; Entertainment  TV (TV).

The New Rules For Judging ‘Quality’ In Published Content

This article by Ben Elowitz originally appeared as a guest post on paidContentEngaging Readers Online

Last week, I explained why the traditional ways of judging “quality” in published content are useless in the digital age. Judging by readers response to that piece, those dated values (which I labeled credential, correctness, objectivity and craftsmanship) are still sacred to many people. But here’s the problem: They simply aren’t enough to win audiences, drive financial success, or, for that matter, ensure viability. The demise of institutions like Newsweek proves that—and shows that publishers that don’t move beyond these anachronistic measures of success will perish.

So this week, I’m offering part two of my take on the changing definition of quality in published content. Here are the four new rules of quality that publishers must obey to flourish. The biggest difference between the old and new definitions of quality are who’s doing the judging. In the era of Publishing 1.0, when production costs were high, alternatives low and time ample, the editor deemed something quality or not. But today, content isn’t scarce at all—in fact, it is in oversupply. And it is the audience that judges quality directly, dozens of times per day.

So, according to the audience, what is quality?  It comes down to these four characteristics:

Relevance. Continue reading

TV News Is Breaking — Can ABC Make A New Model?

ABC has begun today the process of restructuring its news operations, indicating planned layoffs of 300-400 employees.  The six-point memo from ABC News President David Westin presents the changes as an overhaul of how the network produces news to match the “revolution in the ways that people get their news and information.”

But what we need now is a revolution in how content is created, not just in how it’s consumed.  The real value isn’t in production efficiency for its own sake, and  I’m surprised Westin missed the opportunity to define how ABC News can use this restructuring as a weapon to not just serve but grow audiences.

Yes, the changes will help ABC be more competitive on the cost side of the business by shifting the workforce into more flexible (and overall, far fewer) roles — doing more with less.  Taking advantage of digital technology, the news industry no longer needs as many specialty roles to manage equipment and content.  The technology is so much more accessible, portable, and efficient now that an it can all be at he fingertips of a single content creator.

Well beyond cost reduction, however, a vision of a more flexible workforce has real implications for audience — which is far more important of a lever on ABC’s business.  If ABC can reduce the size of its working units, and evolve them to be more flexible to deploy, it should translate into the network being able to cover more stories, sooner, deeper, and better than competitors.

Additionally, if ABC can maintain its quality level of reporting in the new structure (and I think the news network should be and is deeply committed to doing so), it can scale its operations up this way, two ways:  both with its own proprietary content, but even more interestingly, allowing it to integrate third-party and user-sourced content into the conversation.

The upcoming layoffs and restructuring will be painful, but this action is a sober and proactive recognition of the changing rules of the game.  And if ABC executes right, it may not only be able to position itself as a leader of the new game, but to even establish some of the new rules of play.  They certainly are indicating the right orientation to guide them:  it is all about the audience.