After two brutal years ... expect two more

Not the ideal message to start the new year with, but journalists have to go by facts.
Don't miss the last two paragraphs.

British newspapers, whether they are regional or national, are making a third less than they were a year ago, according to Robert Andrews, whose paidContent website is owned by Guardian Media Group.

The freefall in newspaper advertising might be coming to an end after two brutal years, according to forecasts by Group M. However, that only means advertising declines will be in single digits for regional and national newspapers instead of the double-digit swoons over the past two years.

Douglas McCabe, of Enders Analysis, says the declines in revenue and job losses at newspapers may slow in the new year, but said: "I don't think in 2010 they will say: 'That's it, we're done' or more optimistically enter some fantasy land, where they start adding people."

Instead, he sees 2010 and 2011 as being very tough years for newspapers. The decisions on what to cut will become more difficult "intellectually and emotionally", McCabe said.

However, the problems won't be isolated to newspapers. The next two years will not be great for almost any media you can think of, he added.

Andrews is more optimistic about the fortunes of television companies in 2010 than he is for magazines and newspapers. "TV still has something of an ability to reach a mass audience, despite fragmentation by digital, and broadcasters have been able to sustain their income during the downturn," he said.

In 2010, both Andrews and McCabe said almost every publisher will begin to experiment with online paid content.

McCabe said: "Every effort will be made to generate revenue from online services and run newsrooms of scale – or a scale vaguely resembling – the past." The biggest challenge will be working out the subscription and other paid content models.

Andrews sees a real risk in local and regional newspapers in choosing paywall models as their paid content strategy. "They are already losing a lot of their younger readers. They are stopping reading local news." Building a paywall around local content can hardly be seen as designed to encourage lost readers back, he said.

Apart from paid content strategies, British media are in the very early stages of hyperlocal experiments, some from newspapers and others from journalism start-ups, McCabe said. However, most of these projects operate on a very small cost base and will not generate millions of pounds or create the volume of jobs needed to replace those lost in the last two years.

After 100 years with little change in the job of a journalist, things are moving very quickly. Journalists used to join big newspapers and have their career looked after, McCabe said. That's over, and news staffs of the future will be smaller.

Despite the difficulty he sees for media over the next two years, McCabe says, "This is an exciting time for people who have hunger to make it and to manage their career in a hands-on way."

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