If recent reports are anything to go by, it would seem that the media industry is ready to be read its last rites. I thought I'd contrast this with some enthusiasm for what I'm seeing as innovation in the face of adversity. It was during the Great Depression that Fortune launched. Think of launching a publication titled Fortune at a time of 25 per cent unemployment and an 89 per cent stock market decline - only in America.
I'm seeing some real innovations backed by credible ad models taking place. When News Corp and NBC Universal backed the ad-funded TV content site Hulu.com, the media community waited for its demise. However, they brought an expansive TV library coupled with a great user experience - large viewer screen, high-resolution studio quality video. US residents are able to watch catch-up episodes of 24, Discovery Channel documentaries and repeats of The Office. A total of 7.2 million monthly users watched more than 232 million videos in January 2009 with TV ads that can't be fast-forwarded.
Beginning this summer, the cable operator Cablevision will offer addressable advertising on 500,000 cable set-top box households in the New York metro area. This is potentially technology that will allow advertisers to send targeted TV spots, internet style, based on cable subscriber data. Initial trials show "double-digit" lift in sales in areas that received the addressable ads compared with homes that did not.
A traditional broadcaster embracing mobile was CBS, which made available all 63 games of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball competition via an Apple app. Viewers with access to a Wi-Fi connection could watch live streaming of the games on their iPhones and iTouch devices. All ads in the televised coverage would be screened.
The Huffington Post has gone from strength to strength and, to me, represents the new newspaper model. The internet newspaper/news blog community continues to defy gravity, running the HuffPost with just 28 editorial staff, but calls on 2.5 million regular bloggers (including Norman Mailer and John Cusack) to bring news, political commentary and opinion to 8.9 million monthly unique users. The cost of doing this is low. The company pays little if anything to most of its bloggers.
Finally, the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer made some headlines of its own by ceasing publishing as a newspaper and repurposing itself as a local news website. Media commentators here slated this move. I have no idea if it will come off, but bold decisions and different ideas are just what the newspaper industry needs to find answers to a model in decline. Innovation seems the best tonic for a way out.
- Antony Young is the chief executive of Optimedia US.