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Content Creation Markets: Top-Line Revenue Trends

The content-

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: June 18, 2010

The content-creation markets are being affected by the economic and technology trends quite differently as the chart above shows. The chart is inflation-adjusted 4-quarter moving totals, so every data point represents a full year of data. No market is at its 2004 level. Content creation has certainly changed. We have more content than ever, but more of it is in non-advertising revenue formats. The advertising market is in process of shifting from ad placement revenues to payment for campaign creation and management. That trend has been unfolding for decades, but the rise of social media, websites, and search engines have changed the needs of clients, but not the basic purpose of advertising expenditures. It's always been about branding, and it still is today, except there are more tools than ever to do so, and it seems that all tools must be used. The decline in ad revenues hides the new productivity of advertising. A YouTube video can have more brand effect than an ad campaign. For a view of what's happening in advertising, the essential read is Bob Garfield's The Chaos Scenario. It is quite fascinating that periodical revenues now exceed those of newspapers. Yet, when we look at postal data, magazine revenues should be expected to be much worse. Magazine publishers have added other services for their advertisers, such as e-marketing initiatives, and have their own branded events such as seminars and trade events. Newspapers, on the other hand, have been abandoned by many readers and never even got younger readers. Except for a few properties, such as The Wall Street Journal, they are still grappling with monetizing digital media. But even there, Internet revenues for newspapers are declining. The industry is still in great trouble. Book publishing revenues should continue declining, but they may actually sell more books in the process as more of their revenues will be for digital books. These have lower prices, but also lower costs. One report recently forecast that tablet computers, like the iPad, will be the MP3 players of this decade. I can't say I disagree. That may actually be a pessimistic forecast. If the iPad does what it does already, what will it do in 2015? Add to it some of the advances in screen and display technologies, it is likely that the unit will get smaller, and can have an expandable screen that would fold or be rollable. What does all of this do for publisher revenues? Magazines and newspapers might become very much alike in their content, dominated by digital products. Everyone knows that will happen. No one has a clue what it means or what the revenues might be. In 2015, someone will say “yeah, we knew it would happen that way” when they talk about these upcoming years in retrospect. There's always someone who says that they knew it all along. We do know this, however. There are still audiences, and there are good reasons to reach them and interact with them in new and exciting ways. Good content finds audiences, then builds on them. Branded content now has more of a sense of destination about it. Branded content is a place you go, rather than being sent to you. That's quite a difference, and no one really seems to have a handle on that yet.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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