digital subscriptions

In response to declining revenues—in addition to significantly reducing staff and vying for online advertising dollars—many newspapers have instituted new schemes to increase digital subscriptions. One such scheme is called paywalls, which allow readers to access online content without a paid subscription. Most Gannett online newspapers now use paywalls, allowing readers to access “teaser” content, such as the first few sentences of an article, before a pop-up window appears informing them of how to subscribe to read the remaining content in the article. The consensus on whether paywalls are successful is mixed, with some newspapers abandoning them, and others experimenting with different types. For instance, the New York Times uses a metered paywall, where online readers are blocked once they reach a threshold of 10 articles per month. Despite various incentives and barriers designed to increase newspaper subscriptions, digital subscriptions have not recouped lost print subscriptions and are not expected to in the near future.

Consumer magazines have experienced a similar yet less daunting fate as newspapers. For instance, consumer magazine advertising revenues in digital magazines between 2014 and 2019 are projected to increase 17.6%, which offsets projected revenue

declines of 8.2% in print magazines during that same time period. Online advertising revenues are expected to overtake print advertising as the primary source of revenue by 2019.

Television has fared much better than print media. Television advertising revenues are projected to grow from $69.2 billion in 2014 to $81 billion in 2019, representing a growth rate of about 3.2% per year. Television stations have de-emphasized the traditional infrastructure of the network-affiliate over-air delivery system, and instead moved into cable, satellite, and eventually, to the Internet. The latter presents the most formidable challenge to television, with OTT content delivering the heaviest blow. For Netflix, which already had a successful mail order and then streaming distribution mechanism, producing original content such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, made perfect sense. Subscriptions are also income-generating and may compete with advertising revenue at some point, particularly in light of streaming services, such as Hulu, offering more expensive subscription packages for ad-free watching.

Radio has had a harder time maintaining ad revenue, with growth forecasts predicting very modest growth of about 1% per year between 2014 and 2019, and terrestrial radio online advertising expected to experience the greatest growth of about 8.6% per year. Radio is recapturing some of its advertising market share by expanding into satellite and Internet radio platforms. In fact, mobile Internet subscriptions are expected to increase steadily over the next five years. In 2010, 13.7% of people had mobile Internet radio subscriptions compared to 40.8% in 2015. In 2019 experts estimate that close to 60% of the global population will have a mobile Internet subscription, which is driving traditional radio markets to establish digital radio platforms.

3.1.3 Investors 1. Objective: Characterize the relationship between investors and mass media

Some new enterprises with prospects for success are jumpstarted by investors who pour money into them with the hope of a return on their investment. Early investors can do well if an enterprise takes off and generates its own revenues. They can also reap substantial rewards if an enterprise attracts enough additional investors who, in effect, bid up the value of the enterprise. Some investors cash out when they’re ahead, while others stay aboard in hope of continued profits or in the hope that further investor demand for a share of the enterprise will drive up its value.

Most investment in major media companies is institutionalized in ownership shares that are bought and sold, either among family members, other investors, or issuance of ownership shares to the public in an initial public offering, other wise know as IPO. The New York Stock Exchange is one venue for trading stocks. When the U.S. cable television industry was called a “Wall Street darling” in the 1980s, for example, investors were driving up the value of cable companies and creating mounds of cash for the industry to expand. By 2012 stock analysts were sounding the alarm about companies eventual collapse, including Credit Suisse analyst Stefan Anninger who noted that about 83% of new households in the United States were electing to go without cable television, opting instead to stream shows on their mobile devices.

When Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, issued stock, he found himself with so much cash to fuel expansion that he didn’t need to worry about turning a profit. To the dismay of some investors, Amazon didn’t make any money for the first five years that Bezos made shares of the company available to investors. In fact, despite what appears to be Amazon’s involvement in many consumer arenas (e.g., video streaming, Prime discount service memberships, consumer goods sales, including books and music), Bezos still remains relatively muted about Amazon’s profits. Financial reports show that the company lost $196 million in 2014, but sales jumped 20% in 2015, and by July 2015 the company reported earnings of $92 million.

In 2013 when Netflix received 14 Emmy nominations for original programming, its stock soared 170% in one year, prompting the Internet streaming company to announce on its website that in the coming decades Internet TV would replace linear TV. Internet TV is an increasingly desirable option for many consumers, particularly younger audiences who prefer the nonlinear format of Internet TV, including having more control over content with the option of being able to watch what they want, when they want.

But some telecommunications investors warn that it may be too soon to rule out television networks and cable companies out for good, particularly those that entered into the Internet foray early. For instance, one cable company giant, Comcast, recently rolled out an on-demand video service, X-1, that allows end users similar control to watch whatever shows they want, whenever they want, as other Internet streaming companies (albeit at a far higher price).

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