Posts tagged trends

Encyclopedia Britannica next “victim” to web content

The forests will benefit. But it was difficult not to feel a pang on hearing the news this week that Encyclopedia Britannica would no longer print the 32 volumes of its famous publication. Especially for those Gen Xers and older folks who used this famous reference piece for countless book reports, class presentations and the like when growing up.

First published 244 years ago in Edinburgh, the Encyclopedia has lined many a bookshelf over the years and used to be shorthand for where to go for information. But the fact that “I’ll Google it” has replaced “I’ll look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica” is one reason why it will now only be published online.

Britannica, the US company which has published the Encyclopedia since 1902 and is owned by Jacqui Safra of the Swiss banking family, has been right to embrace modernity. Long gone are the days of 1771, when the Encyclopedia defined “woman” as “the female of man”. It claims it was the first encyclopedia to go online, launching on Lexis Nexis in 1981, on CD-ROM in 1989 and on the internet in 1994. And it is easy to see why shifting to online only is the logical next step. As a private company, Britannica’s numbers are hard to come by, so it is not clear how much revenue it is generating from online subscriptions and advertising. But the business rationale behind this week’s decision reflects swift-moving trends with which all publishers are grappling.

The rise of the iPad, and the declining prices of the Kindle and other ereaders, not to mention the relative cheapness of ebooks themselves have led to a surge in their sales. In May last year, Amazon said ebooks were outselling hardbacks and paperbacks for the first time. PwC, the consultancy, expects global spending on ebooks to grow at 35 per cent annually for the next three years, and that they will make up a tenth of all consumer and educational book sales by 2015, up from under 3 per cent in 2010. The trend is particularly marked in the US where, says the Association of American Publishers, ebook sales last December were a staggering 72 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Of course, the Encyclopedia Britannica is not just facing competition from ebooks, but also from other sources of information on the web. Wikipedia says it attracts 400m unique visitors a month. Britannica, whose online versions have 100m users, tries to compete with Wikipedia, as do other online encyclopedias, by allowing users to contribute images or videos and has recently launched an app.

But the struggle between all content providers on the web to attract readers, and thus revenue, appears to be moving decisively away from availability to quality. The fierce competition between information sellers on the web may, hopefully, only serve to encourage Encyclopedia Britannica’s traditional commitment to scholarly authoritativeness.

Even if it does result in an even better Encyclopedia in the future, though, a nostalgic tear still seems merited. In 1998 the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards suffered cracked ribs from a falling set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Well, it’s all over now.

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Of all the things that make me sad or sentimental about the continuous march of technology, one of the worst is probably the demise of printed words…whether they be in newspapers, magazines or actual, non-Kindle books. Sure, looking up fantasy baseball stats every morning at the breakfast table from the Sports section was a lot less convenient to logging on at any time and getting them instantly…but in retrospect, maybe a bit more fun…and more of an “experience”. This recent news:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Newspaper advertising in the U.S. has sunk to a 25-year low as marketing budgets followed readers to the Internet, where advertising is far cheaper than what publishers have been able to command in print.

Advertisers spent $25.8 billion on newspapers’ print and digital editions last year, according to figures released Tuesday by the Newspaper Association of America. That’s the lowest amount since 1985 when total newspaper advertising stood at $25.2 billion.

After adjusting for inflation, newspaper advertising now stands at about the same level as nearly 50 years ago. In 1962, newspaper advertising totaled $3.7 billion, which translates to about $26 billion today.

Print advertising has fallen in each of the past five years, dramatically shrinking newspaper publishers’ main source of income. Even as the economy has gradually improved since 2009, newspapers are still bringing in less revenue as advertisers embrace free or cheaper Internet alternatives that aim to deliver the messages to people most likely to be interested in the products being pitched. The shift has accelerated in recent years as more readers abandoned newspapers’ print editions for the Web.

Newspapers have been mining their digital editions for more revenue. Online ads generated $3 billion for newspapers last year, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, print ads dropped 8 percent to $22.8 billion. Before the slump began in 2006, print advertising generated about $47 billion in annual revenue for newspapers.

To cope with the upheaval, newspapers have cut their staffs, raised their prices and, in the most extreme cases, filed for bankruptcy protection to lighten their debt loads.

Many publishers are pinning their comeback hopes on delivering more news to the growing audience on mobile phones and tablet computers such as Apple Inc.’s iPad.

Tablets, in particular, could create new moneymaking opportunities because early research indicates that their users tend to spend more time reading stories and watching video on those devices than they do on laptops and desktop computers. That trend could help newspapers charge higher rates for ads on their tablet editions than they do on their websites and perhaps make it easier to sell subscriptions to digital editions. With the exception of The Wall Street Journal and a few other newspapers, most publishers have given away their content on the Web — a factor that contributed to their financial woes in recent years.

Publishers would settle for any sign of overall ad growth after 16 consecutive quarters of decline from the previous year. The severity of the slide has been easing since 2009 as the U.S. economy has gradually recovered from the deepest recession since World War II.

Newspaper advertising totaled $7.3 billion in the last three months of 2010, down 5 percent from the prior year. The quarterly decreases have been getting progressively smaller since the July-September period of 2009, when newspaper ad revenue plunged 29 percent from the previous year.

Online ads were the bright spot again in last year’s fourth quarter, rising 14 percent to $878 million. The Internet now accounts for about 12 percent of newspaper’s ad revenue, up from 4 percent in 2005.

“Quarter after quarter, newspaper advertising has shown signs of a continued turnaround and an essential repositioning,” said John Sturm, the Newspaper Association of America’s president.

How Social Media Is Changing Everything – Chatting With The Photo Comment Feature On Facebook

As I thought of a topic for this week’s blog, I was immediately drawn to an experience I recently had online between myself and my Mom on Facebook. She is still fairly new to Facebook, like so many others, but has made lots of connections since joining, and is beginning to use the network more frequently. (This makes perfect sense, since the fastest growing segment of Facebook is women aged 55 and older!) And the interaction that I had with her showed me the huge, growing potential of social networks.

I had posted a few photos of myself and friends on my FB page from the previous night, of us and the guys from Jackopierce, a great two-man band that we like to check out whenever they come to town. Shortly thereafter, my Mom posted a Comment on one of the photos, which I then instantly was alerted to and read. So I wrote back. And before we knew it, we were having a back and forth discussion on the Photo Comment section of Facebook! (She invited me over for dinner, which was delicious by the way…)

Now why do I bring this up? Because it is a perfect example of the utility of social media, and how it is fundamentally changing the way that people communicate. Did the designers of this Facebook function plan on people using the Comment section in this way? Maybe, but maybe not. But the fact is that each of these capabilities and options, not just in Facebook but also the unique features contained within Twitter, LinkedIn, various Google platforms, social bookmarking services, even MySpace and Friendster at the beginning of the social media revolution – are giving us all communication options that we’ve never had before.

And that’s the real story – the fact that interactive, instant communication is now becoming the norm, across all platforms.

It’s an exciting time to be in my business, as the many social as well as business applications and functions of these networks are just being discovered and utilized.

Who knows where they will go next, and what impact they will have on how business, marketing and promotions are done…not to mention how they are shaping our global society and culture?

If you would like more information on how you and your company can take advantage of the tremendous business opportunities within social media, please visit our Social Media Services page.

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