Newspapers and Online: The Revolution Is Coming Very Slowly

Posted by: Jon Fine on June 23, 2006

Boy, did newspaper companies talk a lot about the Internet at this week’s Midyear Media Review gathering.

For the obvious reasons: Wall Street, and advertisers, are a hell of a lot more excited about the Net than they are about newspapers. And, yes, there is actual good news for newspaper companies’ Web moves. To name one, the widely-derided New York Times acquisition of About.com is turning positive for the company faster than expected. (And, yes, I was one of the deriders.)

But here’s the thing: A decade into the Web era, Internet revenues at newspaper companies are still tiny. And no company expects them to get much bigger that quickly.

At Tribune, in 2006 online will account for 7% of total revenues. By 2010, Chairman-CEO Dennis FitzSimons said he hoped that online would be 12% to 15% of total revenues.

The New York Times Co. got 5.9% of its revenues from online in 2005; the company hopes to get that stat to 20% by 2012.

These are the outlines of a story you hear from every company. (Major exception: Dow Jones, which has an entirely different revenue structure since several hundred thousand people are willing to pay for online access to the Wall Street Journal.)

Now, this is not to say that newspaper companies have bad online strategies, or that they’re too dumb to transition quickly to a different world.

Rather, it’s to keep in mind that, despite the inhuman hype about media behaviors changing radically, the dollars simply haven’t moved that quickly. And no one expects them to move that much faster, or that much more significantly, in the next few years.

Traditional media structures are antediluvian, semi-nonsensical, and maybe even totally uncool—and, judging from the evidence, we better get used to it, since they don’t look like they’re disappearing anytime soon.

Reader Comments

RBL

July 6, 2006 1:58 PM

Newspapers should be buying their way in. Instead, they're wasting time trying to figure all this out -- and getting it wrong once they do. While the newspaper moguls are studying and strategizing, the Web moguls -- Microsoft, Google, Yahoo -- are buying up the best properties and technologies.

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The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.

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