|February 29th, 2008||#1|
By the Numbers: Top Tens, News, Trends and Changes in Media Industry: Statisitcal and Other Overviews
New Line Cinema to merge into Warner Bros.
The studio behind 'The Lord of the Rings' and other popular movie franchises will become a significantly smaller version of itself.
By Claudia Eller, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 29, 2008
Roll the credits on New Line Cinema, the 40-year-old studio behind such iconic movie franchises as "The Lord of the Rings," "Austin Powers" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
The company will lay off hundreds of employees between its Los Angeles and New York facilities and be merged into its corporate sibling, Warner Bros.
The consolidation marks the end of the line for the once scrappy producer that prided itself on taking creative risks that other studios wouldn't. But in recent years New Line strayed from its street-smart roots with a slew of costly flops that ended its role as a big-time player in the volatile movie business.
In a sign of retrenchment that is increasingly prevalent in Hollywood, the company will now focus on making fewer movies limited to the kind of smaller, low-cost "genre" horror and comedy pictures upon which it built its name.
New Line becomes the latest free-standing Hollywood studio to abandon its ambitions as a full-fledged company in a market in which bloated overhead and soaring production and marketing costs have squeezed profits amid flat movie attendance and sagging DVD sales.
It comes just as the studio is to release today what could be one of its most promising comedies in a long time, the basketball spoof "Semi-Pro" starring Will Ferrell.
Over the last three years, DreamWorks SKG, the once highflying live-action studio founded by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, was sold to Viacom Inc. and scaled back as part of the media company's Paramount Pictures. At the same time, Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax Films became a much smaller unit of owner Walt Disney Co. after the brothers were forced out. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was gobbled up by a consortium of investors including Sony Pictures, Comcast Corp. and two major private equity firms.
"People start out with high hopes for these indie studios," media analyst Harold Vogel said. "But ultimately they encounter rising costs and difficulties in managing the businesses. At some point, the cash flow and balance sheets fall short of their ambitions."
The consolidation of New Line is the first corporate maneuver by Time Warner Inc.'s recently named Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes to rein in costs at the New York media giant, whose stock price has stagnated since its merger with America Online eight years ago. Bewkes is under pressure from shareholders to boost profitability at Time Warner, which owns cable channels such as CNN and HBO; cable systems that are the largest in Southern California; and publishing operations that include Time, Sports Illustrated and People magazines.
In a conference call with media analysts this month, Bewkes announced plans to immediately eliminate 100 jobs at Time Warner's corporate headquarters, split AOL into two parts, possibly reduce its 84% ownership of Time Warner Cable and target New Line for "near-term cost cuts."
That was an understatement. As a part of Warner Bros., New Line's staff of 600 will be vastly scaled back and the company will no longer greenlight, market or distribute its own movies. Although New Line executives will continue to oversee the development and production of its own films, final say on all matters rests with Warner Bros. President Alan Horn. New Line will make only half the 12 to 14 pictures a year it did previously, which will now be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros.
Bewkes will meet today with New Line's New York employees and address its Los Angeles staff via satellite at the Pacific Design Center.
"Between the cost savings and the revenue enhancements, we believe we can at least double the earnings of New Line," Bewkes said in an interview. He added that those gains would more than offset "substantial restructuring charges" that Time Warner would incur as a result of New Line's consolidation and would benefit earnings as soon as next year.
"This is a no-brainer move," said Richard Greenfield, an analyst with Pali Research. "There's no reason to have two separate infrastructures."
New Line's diminished star is a huge blow for New Line founder, Bob Shaye, 68, and his longtime top lieutenant, co-Chairman and co-Chief Executive Michael Lynne, 66, both of whom learned Thursday that they would leave the company.
No successor was named. In recent weeks, the pair, whose contracts expire at the end of the year, made a last-ditch attempt to stay, presenting Time Warner management with a plan that would have ensured their continued employment.
In an e-mail to employees, Shaye said their departure was a "painful decision, because we love New Line and the people who work here have been like our second families."
Shaye, who founded New Line in his Greenwich Village apartment in 1967 by peddling "Reefer Madness" to college campuses, continued to reign over the company even after he sold it to media magnate Ted Turner in 1994. Two years later the company was swept up in Time Warner's purchase of Turner's cable empire. Over the next 12 years, Shaye continued to run New Line as a fiefdom.
But his and Lynne's relationship with their corporate parent grew strained as New Line began making costlier mainstream movies in the mid-1990s, including Warren Beatty's "Town and Country," "Little Nicky" with Adam Sandler and "The Island of Dr. Moreau," starring Marlon Brando. Such misfires prompted Time Warner to exercise more scrutiny.
In 1997, Time Warner considered selling New Line but was resisted by Shaye's ally Turner, who as vice chairman and a major shareholder held a lot of sway.
A couple of years later, Shaye made an audacious bet that changed the course of New Line's fortunes -- at least temporarily. He committed hundreds of millions of dollars to making three "Lord of the Rings" movies after New Zealand director Peter Jackson's idea to bring the literary classic to the screen was rejected by other major studios.
The first "Rings" movie grossed $871 million worldwide, followed by a two sequels that amassed more than $2 billion in ticket sales. That was a tough act to follow.
Although all studios have ups and downs, New Line's poor track record in recent years added to the pressures on Shaye and Lynne.
Since the last "Rings" film in 2003, the studio has had some hits -- "The Wedding Crashers," "Elf" and last year's "Hairspray." But the hits were outnumbered by flops such as "The Last Mimzy," a family sci-fi fantasy directed by Shaye himself; "Rendition," a thriller with Reese Witherspoon; and "The Number 23," a dark thriller starring Jim Carrey.
Its biggest miscalculation came in December with a failed attempt to launch a new movie franchise based on Philip Pullman's literary trilogy "His Dark Materials." New Line spent at least $180 million to produce and tens of millions more to market the first film, "The Golden Compass," which only managed $70 million in domestic ticket sales.
Although the movie grossed more than $250 million overseas, New Line had sold off the foreign rights to offset its high budget. But that longtime practice of the company to hedge its bets runs counter to Warner's strategy to retain worldwide distribution rights.
"International revenues are becoming more important and it doesn't make sense to give up foreign rights, where a lot of the upside is," Bewkes said.
The Burbank studio will now also be able to exploit New Line's valuable library of about 500 titles, including "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," David Fincher's thriller "Seven," and the Jim Carrey comedies "The Mask" and "Dumb and Dumber."
But the jewel in the crown is a planned adaptation of "The Hobbit," J.R.R. Tolkien's predecessor novel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The project was in abeyance until New Line and Jackson settled a lawsuit in December over the accounting of the first film's income. That paves the way for Jackson to co-executive produce "The Hobbit," which MGM will co-finance and release internationally.
But New Line's legal troubles are far from over. Tolkien's trust is suing the studio for allegedly cheating it out of at least $150 million in profit from the franchise.
On a more promising note, New Line has several potential hits in the wings, including a movie version of HBO's popular series "Sex and the City," a screen adaptation of Cornelia Funke's fantasy novel "Inkheart" and "Journey 3-D," based on Jules Verne's classic "Journey to the Center of the Earth," starring Brendan Fraser.
Last edited by Alex Linder; February 29th, 2008 at 03:27 PM.
|August 7th, 2008||#2|
Journalist seeking paycheck? Try India
As U.S. newsrooms shrivel, India's are booming. And they're hiring, not firing reporters and editors.
By Arun Venugopal
Aug. 7, 2008 | If ever there was a time to take pity on America's journalists, this would be it.
The U.S. news industry is bleeding jobs. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2,400 journalists left newspaper newsrooms last year, either through layoffs or buyouts, leaving the industry with its smallest workforce since 1984. Circulation and revenue are falling across the country, as are share prices: Gannett, the country's largest newspaper publisher, is seeing its stock trade at around one-third its value a year ago; the New York Times Co. is down 45 percent. Classified advertising revenues have dropped 30 percent over the last two years and the last quarter was one of the industry's worst ever.
Just how bad can it get? The American Journalism Review's Charles Layton recently concluded that "we may begin seeing, pretty soon, big American cities with no daily newspaper."
So, what's an underemployed journalist to do? Some move on to academia or cross over to the dark side of public relations. But a few forward-thinking souls are heading to a land where journalism jobs not only aren't disappearing, but are more plentiful by the day: India.
In recent years, India's steamroller economy has diversified well beyond tech and outsourcing, including a big boom in the news media. Circulation has been steadily growing at Indian newspapers, and new dailies and magazines are popping up on a monthly basis. Among the new serious business publications that cater to the economic elites (or aspiring elites) is Mint, edited by Raju Narisetti. Narisetti is the former editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, and before that served as deputy managing editor of the U.S. edition, which helped him lure several journalists from the U.S.
"Mint has a handful of American citizens in its newsroom, including me," he wrote me. "India is a fascinating country where history is being made in many respects so it is a fertile place for good journalism. Hopefully some of the non-Indian journalists will have a better understanding of India when they do go back."
Foreign journalists aren't the only ones taking advantage of India's growth. The Wall Street Journal has a 26 percent stake in Mint (that's the maximum stake the Indian government allows for foreign owners of newspapers). Rolling Stone has also launched an Indian edition, following Vogue, FHM and Maxim. People magazine's local edition is launching soon. However, the growth is even greater in the non-English media, in part because rural and small-town India are becoming more literate and have more disposable income.
In broadcast, the change is even greater. As a kid growing up in Madras (now Chennai) in the '80s, I can remember sitting through the sole nightly news program, broadcast on Doordarshan, the state-run TV channel. It was excruciatingly dry and slow-paced, but we endured it because "I Love Lucy" followed. Those were desperate times.
Today, however, there are countless news channels, and the choice can be overwhelming. And while that doesn't necessarily translate into quality -- some channels borrow the frothiest aspects of American cable news -- it has meant new opportunities, and wealth. Indian media critic Sevanti Ninan noted that new TV channels are poaching the best journalists from print by offering salaries as high as $180,000 a year. But all of this growth also means that the labor supply isn't keeping up with the demand.
Enter the expat.
In June five graduates and enrolled students from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism headed to New Delhi, where they're starting reporting internships at the Hindustan Times, one of the largest-selling English language newspapers in the world. I've been in touch with three of the interns, and to my surprise they all said the miserable job market in the U.S. didn't affect their decision to go abroad. But they also agreed that India's media explosion is impossible to resist.
One of them, Michelle Stockman, has been studying multimedia journalism. She e-mailed me from New Delhi, writing that "it's not the tough job market that sent me there -- yet. I decided to go to India because the promised experience just seems tremendous. Readership is skyrocketing, as are profits. The managing editor also said he really wants to strengthen the multimedia elements of the Web site, and there's money available to put into development."
The managing editor of the Hindustan Times is Pankaj Paul, and when he dropped by Columbia's graduate school earlier this year he said he had a lot of jobs available and promised students the sort of assignments and exposure they'd never get at a smaller American newspaper. But the benefits run both ways. In Paul's eyes, the Hindustan Times is getting top young talent who are sharing their skills with a newsroom in transition. Paul himself is the former managing editor at the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware.
"I have met foreigners working at the Hindu, Mint, GQ, the Hindustan Times and Times of India," wrote Scott Carney, a Chennai-based journalist who freelances for NPR, Wired and National Geographic TV. "They all work on Indian salaries, don't speak the language, and all seem to be having a ball. Since there are so many new publications opening up in India, there is a lot of demand for native English speakers and people who can bring higher reporting standards to local papers."
Carney says he turns down two or three assignments a month.
"I pretty much stick only to big investigative stories on subjects that I choose, and leave the daily reporting and feature pieces to other journalists. I have noticed that some American media houses are pulling back their freelance budgets (just try getting an assignment past the foreign desk at NPR these days!). But I bet that freelancers in America are feeling the pinch much more than I am while living on the rupee."
"If anything," he wrote in his e-mail, "I'd like to see more freelancers move to India. There are too many stories to cover and just not enough time to get to them all."
Of course, everything goes in cycles, and Mint's Narisetti, for one, says it's just a matter of time before India's news business cools down and America's discovers a viable new business model. But right now, journalists in India are reclaiming the narrative, after years of seeming as if they were on the receiving end of it, or left out entirely. After all, this is an entire civilization on the ascent, righting itself before our eyes. In that context, journalists -- from India, the U.S. and elsewhere -- serve as the front line of storytellers, even as they are, in this instance, part of the story.
About the writer
Arun Venugopal is a reporter with WNYC Radio in New York, and editor of SAJAforum, the blog of the South Asian Journalists Association.
|November 14th, 2008||#3|
[American Journalism Review]
The Elite Newspaper of the Future
A smaller, less frequently published version packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product.
By Philip Meyer
Philip Meyer is professor emeritus in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of "The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age."
The endgame for newspapers is in sight. How their owners and managers choose to apply their dwindling resources will make all the difference in the nature of the ultimate product, its service to democracy and, of course, its survival.
In an article in the December 1995 issue of AJR called "Learning to Love Lower Profits" I predicted the financial turbulence that we are seeing today. The piece urged stakeholders in newspaper companies to accept the inevitability of lower returns and to apply their resources to maintaining their community influence.
A decade later, I marshaled the evidence for that strategy in a book titled "The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age." The argument was quantitative and complex. Judging by the Google alerts the book's title has accumulated since then, readers took away the wrong message.
This reference from The Economist is typical: "In his book 'The Vanishing Newspaper,' Philip Meyer calculates that the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition."
That's a clever image, and it is true that extrapolating the recent linear decline in everyday readership would show a zero point in April 2043. But newspaper publishers are not so relentlessly stubborn that we can expect them to continue churning out papers until there is only one reader left. The industry would lose critical mass and collapse long before then.
Moreover, straight-line trends do not continue indefinitely. Nature throws us curves. Even the daily-reader chart showed the barest suggestion of a leveling off in the 1980s before resuming its downward march.
Recently, I took another look at the readership data from the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and tried a different metric. Reasoning that you could still make a pretty good business from an audience reading less than daily, I tracked the percentage of adults who reported reading a newspaper at least once a week. That chart, from 1972 to 2002, shows a much clearer leveling off in the 1980s. Then, at the end of the decade, as though somebody blew a whistle and ordered a column-right march, the line snakes downward again.
Acting on a hunch, I got newsroom census data from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In 1978, when the census began, daily newspapers had 43,000 news/editorial workers. Their number grew until peaking at 56,900 in 1990, after which an irregular decline set in. That temporary growth in staffing corresponds neatly with the temporary halt in the readership decline of the 1980s. Having more people to put more things in the paper kept more people reading.
After 1990, of course, the effects of the Internet kicked in. When writing "The Vanishing Newspaper," I underestimated the velocity of the Internet effect. It is now clear that it is as disruptive to today's newspapers as Gutenberg's invention of movable type was to the town criers, the journalists of the 15th century.
The town crier's audience was limited to the number of people who could be assembled within the range of an unamplified human voice. Printing changed everything. It made the size of the audience theoretically limitless and, by the creation of multiple records, enabled more reliable preservation of knowledge.
The Internet wrecks the old newspaper business model in two ways. It moves information with zero variable cost, which means it has no barriers to growth, unlike a newspaper, which has to pay for paper, ink and transportation in direct proportion to the number of copies produced.
And the Internet's entry costs are low. Anyone with a computer can become a publisher, as Matt Drudge demonstrated when he broke the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998 and countless bloggers have shown in the decade since. These cost advantages make it feasible to make a business out of highly specialized information, a trend that was under way well before the Internet.
Way back in 1966, sociologist Richard Maisel reported on it at the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Since World War II, specialized media had been enjoying more growth than general media. It was true across all platforms. Quarterly magazines, with their limited audiences, did better than monthly magazines, which did better than weekly magazines. Community papers grew more than metropolitan papers. The effect was visible even in New York theater. Off-Broadway productions, with their smaller theaters and more specialized content, were growing more than those on Broadway.
Postwar newspapers met the specialization challenge fairly well for a while. A metropolitan newspaper became a mosaic of narrowly targeted content items. Few read the entire paper, but many read the parts that appealed to their specialized interests. I still remember a fellow Navy trainee in 1953, when the Korean War was on. He religiously bought the newspaper every day. Instead of looking for the war news, he worked the crossword puzzle and threw the rest of the paper away. "Crossword puzzles," he said. "That's all newspapers are good for." Newspaper marketing since then has stressed ways to optimize the selection of pieces for that mosaic of such highly specific interests.
Sending everything to everybody was a response to the Industrial Revolution, which rewarded economies of scale. The model became less and less efficient as printing technology improved and made more specialized publications feasible. At the same time, retailing became more specialized, with boutiques squeezing out the big department stores. Specialized advertisers discovered that they could get mailing lists to target their most likely customers with tailored appeals and high-quality printing. Newspapers matched their printing quality with slick-paper inserts, but that did not solve the targeting problem.
Robert Picard, a media economist who looks at newspapers from an international perspective, believes that they try to do too much. He expressed this view in June at the Carnegie-Knight Task Force conference on the Future of Journalism at Harvard University. Newspapers "keep offering an all-you-can-eat buffet of content, and keep diminishing the quality of that content because their budgets are continually thinner," he said. "This is an absurd choice because the audience least interested in news has already abandoned the newspaper."
If they should peel back to some core function, newspapers would still have to worry about the Internet and its unbeatable capacity for narrowcasting. The newspapers that survive will probably do so with some kind of hybrid content: analysis, interpretation and investigative reporting in a print product that appears less than daily, combined with constant updating and reader interaction on the Web.
But the time for launching this strategy is growing short if it has not already passed. The most powerful feature of the Internet is that it encourages low-cost innovation, and anyone can play. I am ashamed to admit that "The Vanishing Newspaper" contains no mention of Craig Newmark. The significance of craigslist is not just that it uses the Internet but that it empowers public-spirited motivation. Newmark is what business school people call a "bad competitor" because he appears more interested in serving society than making money.
He does make money by charging certain kinds of users, but the bulk of his service is free. He is like Henry Ford who, after introducing the Model T, lowered prices, increased wages and concentrated on market share rather than maximizing profit. When challenged by shareholders unhappy that their dividends weren't higher, he replied that they should view his company as "an instrument of service rather than as a machine for making money."
Craigslist and more specialized online classified ad sites could not have appeared at a worse time for newspapers, which were becoming increasingly dependent on classified advertising. In keeping with the broad trend toward specialization, classified ads moved from 18 percent of newspaper advertising revenue in 1950 to 40 percent in 2000.
The lesson to take away from craigslist is that we should be prepared to be surprised yet again. There are other Craig Newmarks out there, waiting for their hour. Some will be on the news-editorial side, figuring out new, better and cheaper ways to do what newspapers have traditionally done. Newspapers can try to beat them to the good ideas, but, as Harvard's Clayton Christensen has noted, the very qualities that made companies succeed can be disabling when applied to disruptive innovation. Successful disruption requires risk taking and fresh thinking.
On the other hand, it is possible to envision a scenario in which newspapers trim down to a specialized product and survive by serving a narrow market well. They are already trimming down. But what are they trimming down to? Have they thought about what's left after all the shrinkage?
One of the rules of thumb for coping with substitute technology is to narrow your focus to the area that is the least vulnerable to substitution. Michael Porter included it in his list of six strategies in his book "Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance." The railroads survived the threat from trucks on Interstate highways and airlines by focusing on the one thing they could still do better: moving bulk cargo across long distances.
What service supplied by newspapers is the least vulnerable?
I still believe that a newspaper's most important product, the product least vulnerable to substitution, is community influence. It gains this influence by being the trusted source for locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting about public affairs. This influence makes it more attractive to advertisers.
By news, I don't mean stenographic coverage of public meetings, channeling press releases or listing unanalyzed collections of facts. The old hunter-gatherer model of journalism is no longer sufficient. Now that information is so plentiful, we don't need new information so much as help in processing what's already available. Just as the development of modern agriculture led to a demand for varieties of processed food, the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it.
The raw material for this processing is evidence-based journalism, something that bloggers are not good at originating.
Not all readers demand such quality, but the educated, opinion-leading, news-junkie core of the audience always will. They will insist on it as a defense against "persuasive communication," the euphemism for advertising, public relations and spin that exploits the confusion of information overload. Readers need and want to be equipped with truth-based defenses.
Newspapers might have a chance if they can meet that need by holding on to the kind of content that gives them their natural community influence. To keep the resources for doing that, they will have to jettison the frivolous items in the content buffet.
The best publishers have always known that trust has economic value. In "The Vanishing Newspaper," I reported that advertising rates increased by $3.25 per Standard Advertising Unit (SAU) for each one percentage point increase in the persons who said they believed what they read in the paper. And papers with higher trust were more successful in resisting the long-term decline in household penetration. Both of these results were based on a limited sample, newspapers in communities tracked by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since most of them were former Knight Ridder papers, the overall quality was pretty high. A more representative sample would have higher variance in quality and could show a stronger effect.
Won't democracy be endangered if the newspaper audience shrinks down to this hard core? Not at all. As far back as 1940, the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld discovered that voters get their information from one another as much as from direct consumption of the media. He called this the "two-step flow" from opinion leaders to the general public. The Internet is enhancing that two-step flow, converting it to a many-step flow. The problem is not distributing the information. The problem is maintaining a strong and trusted agency to originate it. Newspapers have that position of trust in the minds of the public.
Another piece of the endgame should be bolstering whatever community papers are part of a newspaper company's strategy. A community paper benefits from a very important kind of specialization. Sadly, as staffs shrink, I don't see that happening.
There is some good news about investigative reporting: Nonprofits are turning out to be an impressive source of support (see "Nonprofit News," February/March). This development is not as radical as it sounds. Even at the peak of their earning power, newspapers relied on federally recognized charities for much of their staff training. My own reporting career at Knight Ridder included examples of charity and government support for investigations into the social issues of the 1960s and 1970s.
Nonprofit-financed investigative operations like ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity might lead to a demonstration effect for local philanthropists. Mixing profit and nonprofit motivations might be awkward, but ProPublica's cooperation with "60 Minutes" for its maiden effort was an encouraging start. Replicating that kind of teamwork at a local level with local nonprofits and local papers is an intriguing possibility.
But it won't be a worthwhile possibility unless the news-paper endgame concentrates on retaining newspapers' core of trust and responsibility. The mass audience is drifting away, and resources should be focused on the leadership audience. If existing newspapers don't do it, new competitors will enter their markets and do it for them.
|June 21st, 2009||#5|
Why The Economist is thriving while Time and Newsweek fade
by Michael Hirschorn
The Newsweekly’s Last Stand
Newsweek’s recent decision to get out of the news-digesting business and reposition itself as a high-end magazine selling in-depth commentary and reportage follows Time magazine’s emergency retrenchment along similar lines. It accelerates a process by which the 76-year-old weekly will purposely reduce its circulation from 2.7 million to a bit more than half of that. (Its circulation was nearly 3.5 million in 1988.) Likewise, Time’s circulation, which 20 years ago was close to 5 million, is now at 3.4 million. Both newsweeklies are seeking to avoid the fate of U.S. News & World Report, which after years (decades?) of semi-relevance gave up on the idea of weekly publication entirely.
These tactical retreats by Newsweek and Time are brave stabs at relevance in a changing media environment. They’re also a decade late.
In the digital age, with its overabundance of information, the modern newsweekly is in a particularly poignant position. Designed nearly a century ago to be all things to all people, it Chaplin-esquely tries to straddle thousands of rapidly fragmenting micro-niches, a mainframe in an iTouch world. The audience it was created to serve—middlebrow; curious, but not too curious; engaged, but only to a point—no longer exists. Newsweeklies were intended to be counterprogramming to newspapers, back when we were drowning in newsprint and needed a digest to redact that vast inflow of dead-tree objectivity. Now, in response to accelerating news cycles, the newspapers have effectively become newsweekly-style digests themselves, resorting to muddy “news analysis” now that the actual news has hit us on multiple platforms before we even open our front door in the morning.
Given that even these daily digests are faltering, how is it that a notionally similar weekly news digest—The Economist—is not only surviving, but thriving? Virtually alone among magazines, The Economist saw its advertising revenues increase last year by double digits—a remarkable 25 percent, according to the Publisher’s Information Bureau. Newsweek’s and Time’s dropped 27 percent and 14 percent, respectively. (The Economist’s revenues declined in the first quarter of this year, but so did almost every magazine’s.) Indeed, The Economist has been growing consistently and powerfully for years, tracking in near mirror-image reverse the decline of its U.S. rivals. Despite being positioned as a niche product, its U.S. circulation is nearing 800,000, and it will inevitably overtake Newsweek on that front soon enough.
Unlike its rivals, The Economist has been unaffected by the explosion of digital media; if anything, the digital revolution has cemented its relevance. The Economist has become an arbiter of right-thinking opinion (free-market right-center, if you want to be technical about it; with a dose of left-center social progressivism) at a time when arbiters in general are in ill favor. It is a general-interest magazine for an ever-increasing audience, the self-styled global elite, at a time when general-interest anything is having a hard time interesting anybody. And it sells more than 75,000 copies a week on U.S. newsstands for $6.99 (!) at a time when we’re told information wants to be free and newsstands are disappearing.
All of this suggests that although digital media is clearly supplanting everything analog, digital will not necessarily destroy analog. A better word might be displace. And The Economist’s success holds a number of lessons for dead-tree revanchists on how to manage this displacement.
The easy lesson might be that quality wins out. The Economist is truly a remarkable invention—a weekly newspaper, as it calls itself, that canvasses the globe with an assurance that no one else can match. Where else, really, can you actually keep up with Africa? But even as The Economist signals its gravitas with every strenuously reader-unfriendly page, it has never been quite as brilliant as its more devoted fans would have the rest of us believe. (Though, one must add, nor is it as shallow as its detractors would tell you it is.)
At its worst, the writing can be shoddy, thin research supporting smug hypotheses. The “leaders,” or main articles, tend to “urge” politicians to solve complex problems, as if the key to, say, reconstituting the global banking system were but a simple act of cogitation away. A typical leader, from January, on the ongoing Gaza violence was an erudite, deeply historical write-around on Arab-Israeli violence that ended up arriving at the same conclusion everyone else arrived at long ago: Israel must give up land for peace. The science-and-technology pages tend toward Gladwell-lite popularizations of academic papers from British universities. A February report on new scientific analyses of crowd behavior seemed to promise a fresh look at how police might deal with potentially rowdy mobs, but it quickly degenerated into an unsatisfying gloss on a British professor’s explanation of why some crowds become violent and some do not, with some syntax-obliterating hemming and hawing for good measure. (“And it is that which may help violence to be controlled.”)
Pieces like these tend to support the Economist-haters, who believe the magazine is simply conventional-wisdom-spewing crack for Anglophiles. But then you come across a brilliant exploration of the current drug-fueled violence in Mexico, offered in support of The Economist’s long-held position in favor of legalization, and you suddenly feel like you have a handle on the world that you didn’t have before.
The Economist prides itself on cleverly distilling the world into a reasonably compact survey. Another word for this is blogging, or at least what blogging might be after it matures—meaning, after it transcends its current status as a free-fire zone and settles into a more comprehensive system of gathering and presenting information. As a result, although its self-marketing subtly sells a kind of sleek, mid-last-century Concorde-flying sangfroid, The Economist has reached its current level of influence and importance because it is, in every sense of the word, a true global digest for an age when the amount of undigested, undigestible information online continues to metastasize. And that’s a very good place to be in 2009.
True, The Economist virtually never gets scoops, and the information it does provide is available elsewhere … if you care to spend 20 hours Googling. But now that information is infinitely replicable and pervasive, original reporting will never again receive its due. The real value of The Economist lies in its smart analysis of everything it deems worth knowing—and smart packaging, which may be the last truly unique attribute in the digital age.
For a magazine that effectively blogged avant la lettre, The Economist has never had much digital savvy. It offered a complex mix of free and paid content (rarely a winning strategy) until two years ago and was so unprepared for the Internet that it couldn’t even secure theeconomist.com as its Web domain. (It later tried, unsuccessfully, to claim the URL.) Today, access to the site is free of charge, excepting deep archival material, but while editors have made some desultory efforts at adding social-networking features, most of the magazine’s readers seem to have no idea the site exists. While other publications whore themselves to Google, The Huffington Post, and the Drudge Report, almost no one links to The Economist. It sits primly apart from the orgy of link love elsewhere on the Web.
This turns out to have been a lucky accident. Unlike practically all other media “brands,” The Economist remains primarily a print product, and it is valued accordingly. In other words, readers continue to believe its stories have some value. As a result, The Economist has become a living test case of the path not taken by Time and Newsweek, whose Web strategies have succeeded in grabbing eyeballs (Time has 4.7 million unique users a month, and Newsweek has 2 million, compared with The Economist’s 700,000, according to one measure) while dooming their print products to near irrelevance.
It’s no surprise, then, that the redesigned Time seems to bear an ever-greater resemblance to The Economist (its editor is on record as being a fan; and every other editor of a vaguely upscale magazine nurses a hard case of Economist envy). The revamped Newsweek, not yet unsheathed at press time, no doubt will as well.
As it happens, the new-look Time is quite a good read—my earlier prejudice against it, I’m sure, being a learned response similar to that of millions of others who came to see it as doctor’s-waiting-room fodder. Perusing a recent issue, I found a sharp essay on the changing ethical landscape of “Great Recession” America, and a terrific piece of reportage about how Detroiters are responding to the accelerating collapse of their city and, more generally, how cities should respond when significant chunks of their metropolitan area become unsalvageable.
But it takes time and millions of dollars, and possibly risible branding campaigns, to turn quintessentially middlebrow secondary reads into upper-middlebrow must-reads. And even as Time and Newsweek attempt to copy The Economist’s success, they seem to be misunderstanding what it is, exactly, that they should be copying. By repositioning themselves as repositories of commentary and long-form reporting—much like this magazine, it’s worth noting, which has never delivered impressive profit margins—the American newsweeklies are going away from precisely the thing that has propelled The Economist’s rise: its status as a humble digest, with a consistent authorial voice, that covers absolutely everything that you need to be informed about. (Tellingly, the very lo-fi digest The Week, which has copped The Economist’s attitude without any real reporting or analysis at all, is thriving as well.)
The secret to The Economist’s success is not its brilliance, or its hauteur, or its typeface. The writing in Time and Newsweek may be every bit as smart, as assured, as the writing in The Economist. But neither one feels like the only magazine you need to read. You may like the new Time and Newsweek. But you must—or at least, brilliant marketing has convinced you that you must—subscribe to The Economist.
Perhaps Time and Newsweek simply can’t mimic The Economist in function as well as form. The rapid marketplace shifts that are forcing the newsweeklies to retrench may have bled them of the resources necessary to imitate their British rival’s globe-saturating coverage—say, the reports on trade policy in Botswana; the 30-page specials on fusion energy in Indonesia; the correspondents who scamper (or give the impression that they’re scampering) across backwaters and remote deserts, spraying assured advice along the way like so much confetti.
But even if the newsweeklies had millions of dollars to throw at covering the world, their efforts probably wouldn’t be enough. Repositioning your brand today is so much harder than it was in the old days, especially when you’re destined to be seen as a copycat product. In the digital age, razor-sharp clarity and definition are the keys to success. Knowing what and who you are, and conveying that idea to an audience, is the only way to break through to readers ADD’ed out on an infinitude of choices. General-interest is out; niche is in. The irony, as restaurateurs and club-owners and sneaker companies and Facebook and Martha Stewart know—and as The Economist demonstrates, week in and week out—is that niche is sometimes the smartest way to take over the world.
Michael Hirschorn is an Atlantic contributing editor.
[additional video discussion thru link]
|October 16th, 2009||#6|
German Start-Up Launches Personalized Newspapers
By Christopher Lawton
German entrepreneurs Wanja Oberhof (right) and Hendrik Tiedemann are set to launch Niiu, Germany's first major customized newspaper.
Niiu, a German newspaper set to print in November, allows readers to customize their daily newspaper with news from a variety of news sources before it is printed and delivered to their doorstep. The venture, to be launched in Berlin, has already scored heavy hitting partners like The New York Times.
At a time when more readers are going online to get their news and German newspapers are struggling under declining ad revenues, a new Berlin-based company announced its plan to beat the odds with a customizable newspaper venture this week.
Niiu is a daily newspaper that mixes news pages and information of the reader's choice from 17 different German and international newspapers and several Web sites. Co-founded by entrepreneurs Wanja Oberhof and Hendrik Tiedemann, Niiu allows readers to customize their own 24-page daily newspaper online from German newspapers including tabloid Bild, the Berlin dailies Berliner Morgenpost and Der Tagesspiegel as well as financial paper Handelsblatt and others.
International papers such as The New York Times and the Washington Times have also signed on. Readers can also choose to include content from 500 Web sites that span topics such as sports, politics, music and art. Customers who sign onto the Niiu.de Web site before 2 p.m. can build their own newspaper -- although they are limited to choosing specific pages and sections and cannot select individual stories. The customized paper is then printed and delivered the next day.
Can Young Readers Be Coaxed Away from the Internet?
Oberhof, 23, shrugs off concerns that now is a tough time to launch a new print newspaper, adding that readers and in particular advertisers are very interested in Niiu because it combines the strengths of newspapers and the Internet.
The biggest challenge Niiu faces may be getting young people to read print newspapers. Joachim Blum, a former newspaper man and current digital media consultant, said he has "considerable doubts" about Niiu's prospects for success. While the idea of personalization is interesting, Blum says, it won't work on paper, simply because the students and other young readers that Niiu wants to reach have left paper behind. "I would try to reach this generation -- generation iPhone and generation laptop -- on their media not on paper ... People who read newspapers are office workers, not students," he says.
But Oberhof argues that it offers precisely the mix that could prove attractive to advertisers. Niiu, he says, has "the credibility of newspaper advertising and the targeting that only the Internet is known for." Roughly two pages in each issue will be reserved for advertising that will be sold by Niiu.
The first daily issue of Niiu is scheduled for delivery on Nov. 16, and will only be available in Berlin. Newspaper delivery will be available Monday through Saturday at a cost of €1.80 ($2.67) or €1.20 for students per copy -- no more expensive than the average traditional German newspaper at newsstands.
Oberhof, 23, says he came up with the idea two and a half years ago after he took notice of his own reading habits. Growing up in a traditional newspaper-reading household, Oberhof says he was always accustomed to purusing several different national and international publications such as Bild, SPIEGEL ONLINE, Handelsblatt and The New York Times.
A 'More Comfortable News Medium'
"I asked myself, why can't I have all that in one daily newspaper tomorrow morning?" Oberhof told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Because of that, I had the idea: I wanted an individualized newspaper." While surfers can easily cobble together various news sources online through diverse Internet feeds, Oberhof says he learned from peer groups that paper was the more comfortable news medium.
Around the same time he met Tiedemann, 27, through a mutual friend and found that both shared the same idea. The two young entrepreneurs decided to work together, and over the next two years Oberhof and Tiedemann began to build InterTi GmbH, Niiu's mother company.
Convincing publishers to sign onto Niiu proved to be the most difficult aspect of the launch, Oberhof says -- especially when it came to Berlin-based and German papers. The fear, he says, was that by offering up pages to Niiu, they would canibalize their own sales. Notably, two of Germany's most prestigious national dailies, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung, have not yet signed on. In Berlin, one of the city's three leading local newspapers -- the Berliner Zeitung -- is also missing. By contrast, the international newspapers were easier to convince, Oberhof added.
Since making a formal launch announcement, Oberhof has already received queries from other newspapers expressing an interest. As the selection grows, Oberhof hopes that readership will too. The company has set a goal of acquiring 5,000 readers within its first six months of publishing.
Unusual for the world of start-ups, Niiu has no outside investors. Instead the venture was funded by co-founder Tiedemann. Oberhof says for now they are happy they were able to build and launch Niiu without outside financing, but they are open to the idea of inviting strategic partners to join, especially as they expand Niiu to other cities and countries, a goal he hopes to achieve soon.
"If it works in Berlin, why wouldn't it work in Vienna, Paris and London," says Oberhof.
|October 26th, 2009||#7|
[Circulations of controlled-media newspapers are d-r-o-p-p-i-n-g. Couldn't happen to an unnicer bunch of guys.]
Top 25 Daily Newspapers in New FAS-FAX
By E&P Staff
Published: October 26, 2009 9:40 AM ET
NEW YORK Here are the top 25 newspapers in the country ranked by daily (Monday-Friday) circulation for the six months ending September 2009 from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The percent change compares the same six-month period ending September 2008.
Go here for more on this list by E&P Senior Editor Jennifer Saba, and here for a list of the top 25 papers on Sunday. For a list of the top 10 gainers this time around, go here.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL -- 2,024,269 -- 0.61%
USA TODAY -- 1,900,116 -- (-17.15%)
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- 927,851 -- (-7.28%)
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- 657,467 -- (-11.05%)
THE WASHINGTON POST -- 582,844 -- (-6.40%)
DAILY NEWS (NEW YORK) -- 544,167 -- (-13.98%)
NEW YORK POST -- 508,042 -- (-18.77%)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- 465,892 -- (-9.72%)
HOUSTON CHRONICLE -- 384,419 -- (-14.24%)
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER -- 361,480 -- N/A
NEWSDAY -- 357,124 -- (-5.40%)
THE DENVER POST -- 340,949 -- N/A
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC -- 316,874 -- (-12.30%)
STAR TRIBUNE, MINNEAPOLIS -- 304,543 -- (-5.53%)
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES -- 275,641 -- (-11.98%)
The PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND -- 271,180 -- (-11.24%)
DETROIT FREE PRESS (e) -- 269,729 -- (-9.56%)
THE BOSTON GLOBE -- 264,105 -- (-18.48%)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS -- 263,810 -- (-22.16%)
THE SEATTLE TIMES -- 263,588 -- N/A
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 251,782 -- (-25.82%)
THE OREGONIAN -- 249,163 -- (-12.06%)
THE STAR-LEDGER, NEWARK -- 246,006 -- (-22.22%)
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE -- 242,705 -- (-10.05%)
ST. PETERSBURG (FLA.) TIMES -- 240,147 -- (-10.70%)
(e) Individually paid core newspaper five-day average reflects a reduced home-delivery schedule
|November 10th, 2009||#8|
More job cuts planned at Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Star Tribune is cutting about 100 jobs as Minnesota's largest newspaper further trims costs after emerging from bankruptcy protection.
Editor Nancy Barnes says in a note to the newsroom that about 30 of the cuts will come from newsroom and editorial staff—about a 10 percent reduction. She says those cuts will take up to two months. It's unclear how long the other cuts would take.
The company's operating committee announced the cuts Monday. In a memo to employees, the committee says "it is apparent that there will be job losses as we redefine how we operate."
The Star Tribune emerged from bankruptcy protection Sept. 28 with its main lenders becoming the new owners. Plummeting ad revenue prompted the newspaper to file for Chapter 11 last January.
|December 1st, 2009||#10|
Join Date: Jul 2007
[Jews to get majority ownership of NBC.]
General Electric set to buy Vivendi's NBC Universal stake
Sale of Vivendi shares could lead to $30bn joint venture deal between General Electric and US cable giant Comcast
Jason Deans and agencies guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 December 2009
The French conglomerate Vivendi has reportedly agreed to sell its 20% stake in the US media company NBC Universal to NBC's majority shareholder, General Electric, for $5.8m (£3.5bn).
The deal paves the way for GE, which owns the other 80% of NBC Universal, and the US cable giant Comcast to push ahead with a proposed $30bn joint venture that would create one of the world's largest media and entertainment companies.
Under the proposed deal, GE would sell 51% of NBC Universal, creating a company encompassing the NBC network, cable channels including Bravo and CNBC, the Universal film studio and theme parks, and Comcast's extensive US cable TV, phone and broadband network.
NBC Universal was created in 2004 through the merger of NBC and Vivendi Universal. Vivendi, GE and Comcast declined to comment.
|December 4th, 2009||#11|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Washington Times to cut work force by 40%
4 Dec 2009
WASHINGTON: The Washington Times, the conservative newspaper in the US capital, will lay off 40 percent of its staff in the coming weeks and change its delivery platforms, the publication said.
The cuts are necessary for the newspaper "to keep pace with the dynamically changing economics of the news business," acting publisher Jonathan Slevin was quoted as saying Thursday in a front page story in the newspaper.
About 370 staffs received individual warning through letters that they may be among those forced to leave. Under US law, employers who intend to make mass layoffs must give at least 60 days notice.
The cuts will be among the latest as the US newspaper industry haemorrhages workers. In 2008, at least 5,000 jobs were lost, the Pew Research Centre says. Large newspapers like the Washington Post, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times have laid off hundreds of staff.
The movement by readers to free access on the internet, where advertising produces less revenue, and the recession, which has eroded ad sales both online and in print, have combined in the past five years to undermine the newspaper industry.
The Washington Times plans to stop its subscription service for home delivery and will switch to distributing a free paper to targeted opinion makers. The company also plans to expand TheConservatives.com, a new website, Slevin said.
The newspaper's nationally syndicated radio talk show, America's Morning News, is now heard in 70 major markets and was thriving, Slevin was quoted as saying.
The Times was founded in 1982 by Unification Church founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, as a conservative alternative to the liberal Washington Post.
The Times has lost an estimated $2 billion since its founding, the Washington Post reported.
|June 20th, 2010||#12|
The London Forgotten
Posted by Lew Rockwell on June 17, 2010 08:32 AM
When newspaper mogul and neocon funder Rupert Murdoch announced that he was going to charge about $150 a year for online access to his London Times, I was upset, though not enough to pay him. I had bought many copies of the Times, and especially the Sunday Times, and read it online for years. I did note a fall-off in quality, perhaps because the warmonger gene ate their brains. But by the time the free site went down, I had erased the Times from my bookmarks bar with no regret. But now I note Murdoch is trying to lure paying readers with gimmicks. I predict it won’t work. When Slate, a huge site, went to a pay model, it disappeared, and has never recovered. Same for the NY Times editorial page. Its paywall dramatically cut readership, and turned Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd into pygmies. (That is, it wasn’t all bad.) Mr. Sulzberger took down that wall, but now plans to copy Murdoch across the board. Not only will this not save the Times, it will kill the newspaper faster. That’s why the free press wants government handouts. No more unpaid lying for them. But that won’t get them readers either.
|July 12th, 2010||#13|
Interesting analysis of the internet / music business in response to Prince's comments
|July 13th, 2010||#14|
Join Date: May 2007
I was watching a Loverboy video on JouTube the other day and it brought back to me just how horrible things were in the 80s. As bad as things may be now, they're not as bad as they were. I wouldn't ever want to go back to that.
This guy's on an ego trip. He thinks that were this 1988, he'd be signed to a major label and making a comfortable living with his music. He doesn't realize that there were 100,000 other bands that were more talented than his that had the same aspiration, and that at any rate, talent had little to do with being signed.
The streets of Hollywood were (and probably still are) full of 19 year olds renting their bodies for sex who originally moved there with the certainty that they were going to "make it big" in the film or music industry.
The jewish tribe is the cancer of human history.
Last edited by Igor Alexander; July 13th, 2010 at 01:57 AM.
|July 15th, 2010||#15|
It's funny, though, his way of thinking. He says:
It’s putting the actual making of music secondary to the complicated business of trying to find a way of sustaining a living from doing so.
No, pal, YOU are doing that. His assumption, which he appears not to realize, is that you're not really "making music" unless you're being paid for it. A truly British attitude, I might note.
Last edited by Alex Linder; July 15th, 2010 at 08:13 PM.
|July 15th, 2010||#16|
|July 16th, 2010||#17|
Join Date: May 2007
The truth is, record sales were never a big source of revenue for bands on major labels, unless a band was big enough to sell a few million copies. The average band might've made 50 cents in royalties off each album sold, and even then, the label would probably pocket that to "recoup" its advance. So the advance could very well be the only money the band ever saw from its label.
This guy complains about artists not being able to make a living; well, when have things ever been different? Edgar Allan Poe died penniless. I once read that Nietzsche hadn't sold even 400 copies of his books while he was alive. There's lots of stories like that. Making a living as an artist has never been easy.
Things look uncertain right now, but in the long run, these changes aren't going to hurt genuine artists, only the middlemen and opportunists.
The jewish tribe is the cancer of human history.
|July 22nd, 2010||#18|
1) Dolly Parton, out of shitshack East Tennessee, in her coat of many colors
2) a failed alt-rocker from Portland, now part of a songwriting team for a country label out of Nashville.
Now, which is going to be concerned more with profits? The girl writing songs to entertain folks, or the cool guy who needs a hit? The latter will be fare more concerned with being ripped off. The former, it may have become job and commerce, but it didn't start that way. It started as the desire to produce a thing of beauty, that might shed grace and understanding on the world, thru the prism of a carefully stylized personal experience. The alt-writer is to the artist as the viceroy is to the monarch: an imitation. He's a professional wordsmith and manipulator of emotions, not truly an artist, more of a magician who works in emotions. Bass will bite on artificial lures, just as men will nibble on artificial breasts. There's a parallel in team songwriting as well, as most of the public cannot tell the difference. I remember in Mencken's book he talks about the cosemetological tricks women use to fool men, how obvious they are, yet you can't blame them because so few men notice. The fake is as good as the real to them, so the females will keep on with their deceits. I have written more than one thing under a female name, and posted it here, right next to something under my real name. Didn't bother to disguise word choice or sentence structure, exact same. One received praise, one criticism. People are oblivious to anything short of an earthquake. That's one reason jews run things. A higher pecentage of them actually pays attention to what's going on. I guess it's the light side of their genetic paranoia, it certainly helps them get ahead.
Commerce can produce a lot of good second-rate art, but I don't think it will very often produce the best art. There simply isn't enough room for competing and in many ways oppositional motives. The two functions are naturally separate. They require very different uses of the head.
Last edited by Alex Linder; July 22nd, 2010 at 12:39 AM.
|August 4th, 2010||#19|
Join Date: Jul 2007
The Next Owner of ‘Newsweek’ Will Be Jewish
A plea against one of the candidates
By Marc Tracy | Jul 30, 2010 1:00 PM
Say no to Drasner.
The three bidders still in the mix, according to the New York Times, are audio equipment tycoon Sidney Harman; tastefully named hedge fund guy Marc Lasry; and Mort Zuckerman chum Fred Drasner. All three are Members of the Tribe. (Harman is thought to be the front-runner.)
Some words of wisdom for The Washington Post Company, the current owner of a wonderful magazine: Don’t sell to Drasner. In addition to helping publish Zuckerman’s New York Daily News, Drasner invested a minority stake in Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Washington Redskins. The following decade has been one of fleeting mini-success that has served only to punctuate steady mediocrity, culminating in last season’s 4-12 catastrophe.
Now, granted, the Skins are back on the right track, with a new general manager, head coach, and quarterback, and are poised to go 10-6 and make the playoffs (mark me down!). But Drasner no longer owns any stake—Snyder bought him out—so he gets no credit for this. In fact, in case you didn’t notice, I have just decided to make him my scapegoat for my past ten years of mostly-misery.
So, Washington Post Company: Read your own paper, and make the wise decision.
|January 5th, 2011||#20|
Join Date: Jul 2007
More TV viewers may be cutting the cord this year
New mobile devices and Internet-connected televisions that could let viewers cancel their pay-TV subscriptions are expected to be among the hottest items at the Consumer Electronics Show.
January 03, 2011
By Dawn C. Chmielewski and David Sarno, Los Angeles Times
It's about to get a lot harder to turn off the TV.
A torrent of television-ready gadgets will hit the store shelves this year, including dozens of phones and tablet computers that will allow viewers to watch movies and TV shows from just about anywhere.
The proliferation of viewing devices — including a new generation of TV sets that connect to the Internet — could boost the chances that viewers will do what cable and satellite companies fear most: cancel their $70-a-month subscriptions in favor of cheaper Web options.
2010 was the year that people started wondering, questioning if cord-cutting is real," said Phil Wiser, co-founder and president of Sezmi, a service that allows users to watch TV from both local stations and online sources. "In 2011, it's going to become obvious."
Many of the TVs will be unveiled at this week's Consumer Electronics Show, the annual conference in Las Vegas that attracts more than 100,000 tech devotees searching for technology's next big thing.
This year the buzz is centered on Internet-connected TV and whether it will take off. Internet TV would allow viewers to watch Web videos alongside traditional television shows and movies. Nearly every manufacturer is expected to unveil a Web-capable television at the electronics show.
"It's going to be a fundamentally big transition," said Jason Kilar, chief executive of the Hulu online video service. "You'll see unparalleled choice, from the standpoint of the consumer, when you open up the Web through that screen."
Manufacturers are also sure to trot out a parade of new tablet computers, each hoping to compete with Apple Inc.'s dominant iPad, which has sold more than 7.5 million units since it launched in April.
The cast of iPad rivals is expected to include devices from Hewlett Packard Inc., BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd. and perhaps Microsoft Corp. New tablets — like their cousin, the Web-connected TV — will also be video-friendly, with high-resolution screens that will let users watch movies and shows they can download from the Internet.
The next generation of smart phones is also likely to grab a share of the spotlight. The newer 4G phones — that's fourth generation — operate close to 10 times faster than current smart phones, allowing users to watch movies and television via a cellular connection. Verizon Wireless Inc. is widely expected to unveil its first 4G phone to take advantage of the high-speed network the company is rolling out.