Big media and the need for content sharing

By 01/26/2009 March 26th, 2010 Content Strategy, Custom Publishing

When I was still a wet nosed reporter (which was only in 2003 mind you), I would have told you that you were insane if you were claiming that traditional media would die out before I did. Then again, this was before iPods had video and WiFi capabilities, before Facebook and Twitter and before Google News.

Fast forward a few years and it’s a whole new ballgame. Newspapers are cutting staffs, magazines are calling it a day and headlines are being broken by Twitter users and bloggers far faster than the traditional media and it’s so-called 24-hour newscycle. The rise of the blogosphere, social networking and changing consumer attitudes have turned content production on its head. And if newspapers and magazines don’t make adjustments, pool their resources and begin listening as much as their shouting, the death rattle will be coming sooner than later.

Content sharing isn’t a new idea by any means. I grew up in Detroit, and remember when the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press published a single joint weekend edition between 1998 and May of 2006. Prior to that, the News and Freep entered into a Joint Operating Agreement on the business operations side of the shops to cut cost as part of the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970. They are one of the few sets of papers in joint operating agreements that ever shared content.

But the current economic atmosphere, rising newsprint costs and increases in online readership are forcing papers to look at these sharing partnerships yet again.

Last December, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun announced that they would enter a content-sharing arrangement, and just two weeks ago, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced plans share sports coverage.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we’ll continue to see this trend in newspaper publishing. The question we need to start answering is, when will this begin occurring in the magazine, tabloid or even digital industries?

I think the overwhelming answer is probably sooner than later.

As this PR Week media analysis points out, magazines like AdWeek, BrandWeek and MediaWeek (all Nielsen Media titles), began sharing content in October of 2008. The company points out in the news release that less than 2% of subscribers for the publications, which cover overlapping industries, receive all three titles.

Still, the unfortunate reality is that magazines need to begin examining sharing content with rival publishers, as some of the aforementioned newspapers have done. But there is a particular challenge in that experiment because newspaper content sharing (usually) has the advantage of regional play, or, as we see in the Star-Telegram/Morning News arrangement, the advantage of only sharing sections. Magazines are much more topic-focused, making cannibalizing of issues a given. And where do you make the call on which writers to keep, what sort of voice to carry forward?

Unfortunately, as the PR Week article points out, it’s a “murky” proposition, but one that I believe will be absolutely necessary for the survival of even the most storied titles in the annuls of media history. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you ever see major media magazines or blogs sharing their content? Could Newsweek and Time one day share stories? I’m curious as to your thoughts.

Photo by : Sanja Gjenero

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Stacy Lukas says:

    I can identify with you on thinking that traditional media was immortal. I thought the idea of newspapers going “extinct” or even being “endangered species” was absolutely absurd.

    Now look at things.

    Regarding shared content of newspapers, though, honestly, it makes sense. Cold, hard news is what it is, and whether story X is in the Detroit News or the Detroit Free Press doesn’t change the story. It may be reported slightly differently, but what happened happened. Period.

    Magazines, however, yes, murky in more ways than one. I think depending on the magazine and its content style (not to mention the content itself) will be a big determining factor, regardless of publisher.

    It’s been a while since I read a Newsweek or a Time, but if I remember correctly, Time is much more feature-based and in-depth than Newsweek, which I saw more as the week’s Cliff’s Notes for news. To a degree they already share content as far as topics go, but I really don’t know if there will be a day where I’d open up a Time and see the exact same story that I read in Newsweek a few days earlier. They might just combine forces, be biweekly, and call themselves NewsTime, which sounds surprisingly logical (at least to me).

    But as far as magazines like, say, Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart, & O Magazine, three magazines that have the same (or similar) demographics sharing content … to me it makes sense, but I don’t know if that will ever happen.

    But who am I to call it? I once thought people would always want newspapers, and I still have a VCR.

  • I still have a VCR as well. And some of the smarter newspapers will continue to publish I think, but mostly as an archival record of time past. Eventually, the population will just outgrow them.

    Still, I believe the newspaper is one of the most portable, fastest way to read information, even if it may be a little stale by the time it gets in your hands.

    Thanks for commenting Stacy 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

All Content ©2019 Daniel Eizans Strategic Services LLC