The U.S. media are facing a crucial crossroads — yes, again.
The advent of technological advances and the blurring of new and old media — Huffington Post now SEEMS like a member of the old guard, no? — make it challenging to guess what companies will thrive and which will vanish.
Many dynamic entrepreneurs are introducing apps and websites and blogs at a breathtaking clip. Many of the familiar media names are teetering and praying for a financial savior like the Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos.
So, what may happen in the year ahead? Here are five brief, but key, questions (and answers):
1) Will anyone step forward and (try to, at least) buy the New York Times?
I first suggested many years ago that Michael Bloomberg would take a run at the Times after he left City Hall. It hasn’t happened yet. Who knows, if it will by now. Bloomberg has been making numerous changes at his eponymous news operation, which may signify something or nothing about his acquisition plans. Or he may choose to sell the company and give away most of his money. With him, you never quite know what to expect. The Times is having its chronic financial challenges but its brand name is still glittering in journalism circles. Is anyone brave or foolish enough to want to own it?
2) Whither Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable
These are the three dashing websites that have upended the industry. But will they be takeover bait or — buyers, perhaps — in the year ahead?
3) And What About Vice?
Ah, the fourth leg of the stool. Vice is now the “it” media operation, the one all of my college students want to work for and the company that seems to generate positive news on a regular basis. It’s raising money, expanding operations, getting good publicity. http://mashable.com/2014/09/04/vices-investment-500-million/ Will Vice advance in 2015 and stake its claim as the company that everyone wants to BUY? It has reportedly held serious talks with the likes of Time Warner, so it is already playing in the big leagues. The temptation for a quick payoff may be too great for Vice’s investors to overlook but it would be unfortunate if Vice lost its edge under the control of an old-media owner, which was trying to acquire Vice’s glamour. It would be ironic, though. Vice is cool, as an indy. If it happened to become part of a conglomerate, it would run the risk of no longer looking cool and resemble a bad investment.
4) What Will Become of the News Networks?
In 2014, the cable news companies had a tough time with audience growth. The Internet continues to cut into their home turf and a squabble with Dish hurt the perennial leader, Fox News http://www.mediaite.com/tv/is-the-dish-blackout-really-having-a-negative-effect-on-fox-news-ratings/ Is CNN ready to make stride, at long last? Can MSNBC, whose latest problem is a ratings drop for the Morning Joe show, remain competitive? Will Al Jazeera America make progress on U.S. shores and truly put a scare into the entrenched cable powers?
5) What’s the Next Big Thing?
C’mon. We all know it’s out there, whatever the heck it turns out to be. Will it be an explosive app? Will it be an invention from Google or Apple or even the brainchild of some kid working away right now in a garage somewhere in Tacoma or Topeka or Tallahassee? Will Yahoo acquire the manufacturer, as it is won’t to do, and create an instant multi- millionaire? We’ve read all about Google Glass and other wearables — but the flame might be flickering on those. Electronic cars? OK, when will this become a legitimate trend? 3-D TV? Yada yada yada.
In fact, that’s my watchword for 2015 — yada yada yada — until something better comes along.
Happy New Year, everyone!