The next three years could be critical for the online news game.Â The timeline may be five years, but more likely, I think, we’ll have a pretty good idea as to our fate (speaking of newspapers and their online properties) within three years.
By mid-2010, we won’t necessarily be saying, “whew, we made it through that one,” but we will be able to say whether our long-term prospects are good or poor.
I know there are those who would say the prospects are bleak now. I disagree.Â I remain hopeful. But I would say the trends now are neutral.Â Our fate hangs in the balance.
Within three years, we’ll know:
- Whether CPM rates can be pushed much, much higher;
- Whether newspaper sites can band together to create a useful national advertising network;
- Whether there is any there there in behavioral advertising (this point independent of the first two items, but also related);
- Whether returns on contextual, CPC advertising can become a significant revenue stream for local news publishers;
- We will know if we can figure out a sustainable, significant video advertising model;
- We will know if we’ve figured out a way to not only protect, but expand our classified and vertical advertising revenue;
- We will know if we can really turn internet yellow pages into a strong, new revenue source;
- We will know if we’ve figured out how to grow audience significantly enough to better under gird all of these advertising models.
If we’ve succeed in all or most of these areas, I think we will have reason to celebrate our success.Â If we’re still just treading water, or worse, falling behind, we will be justified in feeling quite panicked.
My prediction:Â Within three years, we will see a number of online news sites associated with newspapers that take in more than 30 percent of the revenue of the total media company operations — all of the trends above will be robustly positive for those companies.Â And we’ll see some newspapers failing miserably and on their way out of business.