Our friend Brian Stelter at The New York Times has a post about Reed Elsevier's plans to put Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel news and a number of its other trade publications up for sale. It plans to keep the vaunted Variety.
Brian doesn't write it, and I fear it's a topic that might hit too close to home for him, but basically Reed Elsevier is saying "We don't want to be in the business of publishing commodity info that is commonly available unless it has a huge brand behind it like Variety!" It's hardly surprising that Reed Elsevier isn't spinning it that way, it's not much of a sales pitch.
Predictions of the Internet killing television are overhyped and perhaps at least 25 years too early. But it is killing some of the trade publications.
The truth is the Internet has been the great in terms of increasing media and coverage of the TV business --from Zap2it, to Ausiello, to IMDB and Wikipedia, there's more media than ever available. Minor brands saddled with a print product have struggled though. TV Week went online only recently, but it looks like it also has pretty much lost most of its reporters, columnists, and usefulness and so far isn't shaping up to be a great example of how to migrate a good offline brand to an online only brand.
I'm hopeful that someone buys Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News -- they're among my favorite sources for info. The problem is, most of the info they write about isn't exclusive and is available in a variety of other places. By the time the print publication is out, it's all old news. The info on the web sites is great, but the reason it's great is that those publications are staffed based on a print model that doesn't really work anymore. They too could convert to online only, but if it's with significant staff reductions that make the online sites less useful...
There probably needs to be a lot of consolidation within the trade pubs to make a cost effective structure. In a world that competes for eyeballs on the internet, I'd expect to see an increase in both controversial stories that attract eyeballs and rumor sites and continued decline in trade style reporting. It's unfortunate, but seems inevitable.