A look ahead to 2012
It’s almost the beginning of a new year, which means it is time once again to predict what might happen in the media world here in Arbitron market #16 – also known as the Twin Cities.
Change will remain in the air in 2012 for both traditional and new media. Media companies face content and format decisions as they attempt to reinvent themselves, refine their niche, and reclaim their audiences in a “survival of the fittest” era. Meanwhile, advertisers continue to be pulled in the opposite direction toward new media. Here’s what to watch for and expect in the coming year.
Light rock holiday music fans in the Twin Cities were probably a bit shell-shocked on Christmas evening when they turned the dial to 102.9 FM. After more than two decades as a light rock station, WLTE officially became a country music station, “BUZ’N 102.9.” BUZ’N will be run by Mick Anselmo, the former Clear Channel Radio executive who helped launch and make K102 a market leader. The stations are next to each other on the dial and competing for a share of what is now the most popular format in the Twin Cities.
The Twin Cities may also hear an increased volume of talk radio inhabiting the FM dial. After nearly five years of spinning the oldies, trimulcast station Cumulus Broadcasting, which also owns KQRS and 93X, is expected to lose the love for “Love 105” and flip the three stations to a news/talk format in early 2012. This follows trends from other markets around the country, and it is happening as we enter a busy 2012 election cycle. There’s still no word on who the new hosts will be, but the change will create a battle between Cumulus and Clear Channel’s KTLK-AM 1130. Expect a lot of syndicated and out-of-market voices during the transition.
Twin Cities newspaper readers may have already noticed the sharp contrast between the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press in online news sharing. Since the Star Tribune launched its pay wall, which limits online readers to 20 stories per month before needing a paid subscription, the Pioneer Press has reportedly received more online traffic. The increase in traffic could be coincidental, but the Pioneer Press continues to provide unlimited free online content despite operating with a smaller staff, budget, and market reach than the Star Tribune. While years ago it would have been hard to imagine, MPR is also seeing an increase in page views for its non-radio content, which may be the result of the Star Tribune pay wall. Readers can expect the Star Tribune’s pay wall to further impact news consumption in the Twin Cities.
Getting down to the hyper-local marketplace, the hometown newspaper market just got more interesting with the recently proposed merger of Coon Rapid’s ECM Publishers and Minnesota Sun Newspapers, a division of American Community Newspapers II in Dallas. Through the merger, ECM will work with associates from the Sun Newspaper Group “to provide quality newspapers and online content to the communities the newspaper currently serves.” Meanwhile, communities like Apple Valley that have enjoyed more than one publication will lose an information source if ECM decides to downsize in cities where it will now have two papers.
In 2010 and 2011, AOL’s Patch news sites appeared in many Twin Cities suburbs. With its constant rotation of editors and low advertising profits, Patch news sites are having difficulty finding their niche in the over-saturated media landscape. AOL investors are not happy with the big losses as the company struggles to find a way to capture display ads. The coming year will likely bring change as marketplace realities catch up with the bold vision to create a national network of online-only news sites.
Minnesota drivers will likely see more digital billboards along roadsides. Digital boards are one of the fastest-growing forms of advertising, because they are eye-catching and easier to update than traditional billboards. What was once dismissed as an “old-school” medium, a billboard in its newest form enables advertisers to digitally customize their messages for certain times of the day, such as rush hour or after a sporting event. Regardless of whether you listen to traditional radio, satellite radio, an mp3 player, or nothing at all – it’s hard to miss these big, ever-changing signs. It’s an example of a traditional advertising medium that remains relevant in the new age.
One of the biggest potential changes for Facebook users, including businesses, is that Facebook news feeds may soon show “sponsored stories” in addition to the regular advertisements that appear on the right of the page. Projected to begin in January, these advertisements will appear once a day when a Facebook member “likes” a certain company page. Facebook users will not be able to opt out of this new feature.
Sponsored stories are not new to our market. Bring Me the News has built a growing business by including sponsored content within curated feeds of news and sports.
Currently wrapped up in privacy lawsuits, Facebook may need to delay its sponsored stories launch, just as it did with its much-anticipated “timeline.”
That’s all for now. As you did in 2011, you can count on the GP Spin in 2012 to do all that we can to keep you updated on what seems like an ever-changing media landscape.
« Most recent blog