10 Local Digital Media Trends For 2013
In the spirit of digital media’s forward-looking nature, we’d like to look ahead to some the most important trends that we see developing in local digital media for 2013. Here are 10 things to watch from technology to revenue to journalism for the coming year.
1. Video will be critical. Newspaper sites are taking the fight to their TV competitors in the growing digital video space. U-T San Diego plans to ramp up its in-house TV station to 24-hour coverage, leading a cluster of other papers producing daily original video. Video can lead to cachet — such as the Las Vegas Sun’s award-winning work — but more important, lucrative pre-roll revenue dollars (not to mention overlays, video sponsorships and other monetization opportunities). And watch for the rise of video networks both within and between media companies.
2. Local media companies will further diversify their digital revenue streams. Display advertising is simply not enough (though USA Today is bullish on some interesting enhancements of the form). Local media companies will increasingly turn to SMB targeted digital marketing and advertising services, a space where Hearst’s LocalEdge, The Dallas Morning News and Belo Corp. have been among those making increasingly aggressive moves. Events have also emerged as an important revenue source, with sites like The Texas Tribune showing the way to creatively leveraging brand and content.
3. Tablets will accelerate digital media’s evolution. The 2012 holiday season has pushed tablet penetration closer to critical mass. The form factor has already prompted dramatic experiments in journalism (Men’s Health’s interactive iPad features was a standout, as was the Denver Post’s iPad app) and advertising opportunities. Look for more differentiated tablet media apps in 2013 to take advantage of the device’s lean-back nature, high-resolution screen and video friendliness.
4. Responsive design will be the new normal. The Boston Globe showed us how it can be done. This approach gives publishers an easier way to reach all platforms with consistent quality, and consistent, streamlined reporting for advertisers. The next 12 to 18 months will see a widespread adoption of this intuitive approach to design. Tremors in the app world are likely to follow.
5. More paywalls are coming. The newspaper industry’s internal arguments over paid content models are sliding rapidly toward paywall adoption. In the last months alone, McClatchy, Gannett and Hearst have expanded their paywall efforts. Even The Washington Post is seriously considering erecting a wall [link WashPo story], and holdouts will find themselves ever scarcer.
6. Geolocation and geofencing will fundamentally change mobile advertising. The technology is here and ever improving. More and more ads will cater to individual users and their physical locations. Location-based ads are the fastest-growing segment of mobile advertising, according to BIA/Kelsey. To be sure, it’s a legal minefield for privacy concerns, and the right federal oversight is essential. But the potential for relevant advertising finding consumers has never been greater.
7. Hyperlocals and nonprofits will get revenue-smart or go away. The blue sky days of journalistic ideals first, business models second are over. Smart niche sites — either by geography or reporting mission — have realized that everything hinges on a sustainable business model. We’re intrigued by outliers like Charlottesville Tomorrow and Magic City Post, who have found innovative revenue engines to sustain their journalism. Such creative thinking can’t go into the news product alone.
8. Data journalism will be cool and everywhere. Did you need Nate Silver to prove it to you? The DIY, open-sourced tools available to any journalist have made data impossible not to embrace. At The Texas Tribune, reporters and programmers/developers are working side by side. The Chicago Tribune is using data as the backbone of its Crime in Chicago desktop app, red flagging the city’s most dangerous corners. Good data is the cornerstone of good reporting. The Guardian nailed it: Data journalism is the new punk.
9. New journalists will have multimedia skills or will not work. Rising journalists who aren’t getting digital bred into their training are getting sold a bill of goods. Newsrooms need personnel who are as comfortable with being both behind or in front of a camera as they are with text. They need social media skills like a reflex, and even some basic coding ability. They need reporting and storytelling skills elastic enough to fit every form factor. You don’t get to pick your medium anymore.
10. Newsrooms will take a project-based approach to work. NPR’s Planet Money is showing us the path here, with its multimedia, multishow method of unpacking the global economy. Put together a smart, ad hoc team to execute a specific project, replicate it if it’s successful and throw it out if it isn’t. Build multimedia into the project’s DNA and figure out how to iterate it from there. This is how any media company can build its own innovation lab. This is where the future is being figured out.