Last Man Standing


The Last Man Standing theory of local media

The theory: As first newspaper print, and then local broadcast advertising continue to winnow down, there just won’t be enough left to support the number of local media news outlets we have today. Digital advertising and even TV paywalls could help with funding. If you want to be running a local newsroom of significant size in 2020, be prepared to be one of only two or three that may then exist.

The Southland has been ripe for consolidation for quite a while, as its three biggest newspaper groups all endured bankruptcies. The question has been who would want to stay and who would want to go.

Consolidation is happening in every legacy industry. 2013 was the biggest year of TV station ownership consolidation, led by Sinclair, Gannett, and Tribune. As cord-cutting begins to age the cable industry a bit faster, Charter is actively pursuing Time Warner Cable, as Comcast considers its options. In Europe, too, we’ve seen the emergence of consolidation. Axel Springer sold two of its standard-bearing German dailies to consolidator Funke Media, while in the U.K., Local World — a roll-up of two big newspaper chain properties — has turned a first-year profit, even as its executive ranks are roiling.

As consolidation happens, newspapers should not have the sense they have a guaranteed position in the 2020 standings.

The test for 2014: As we witness newspapers trying to do video, TV stations trying to write stories, and public radio aspiring to be text/audio/video producers, who will get it right first? Don’t expect the definitive “right” within a year, but 2014 is a pivotal year to get legs up on the competition.

[1-The newsonomics of how the news industry will be tested in 2014]