Thursday, December 18, 2008

Through a glass darkly

(Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly named the magazine that Ziff Davis Media said it would close. The correct name is PC Magazine.)

It's the end of the year, and time for Folio magazine to publish predictions about the industry.
Once again Folio has been kind enough to ask me for my predictions for the coming year. And as anyone who has read this blog in recent weeks could guess, I'm predicting that 2009 will mark the end of an era in B2B media.
Or, as I said a few days ago, "the B2B industry as we know it is about to collapse."

But before you check out what industry folks see for 2009, I think it's kind of instructive to read what we predicted for 2008.
Last year I told Folio that "print advertising will continue to shrink, and I think it’s going to be a tough year for online advertising too." I also predicted a continuation of the "ethical disasters" we'd seen the prior year in B2B. I also said "I don’t expect an increase in hiring" but did expect a rise in deals where freelancers work for a revenue share.
And as much as I wish I had not been right about much of what I predicted, I have to give myself a pretty good grade for that list.

Some of Folio's other prognosticators last year also saw correctly that things were taking a turn for the worse.
In particular, it's worth noting that Larry Grimes said private equity firms would look to sell their holdings, but they'd find few buyers and lower valuations. He also predicted that publishers looking to buy online properties would "find the pickings are very slim." And that "deal flow will be slow until the banks start lending again. "

On the other hand, some of last year's predictions look pretty far off the mark as we look back at 2008.
Reed Phillips predicted that by the end of the year, "valuations for newspapers, specifically, and print media, in general, will start to rebound." There were also two people who predicted a surprising rise in magazine advertising in 2008.
But the most poignantly incorrect prediction came from Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of PC Magazine, who said that after another year of the Web vs. print war we'd see a situation in which "magazines recoup just enough advertising to find new life and live to fight another day." But by November, Ziff Davis Media had announced it was shutting down PC Magazine's print publication.

This year's collection of predictions is different. This year there's something like consensus. Most everyone, it seems, expects a tumultuous and difficult year.
Check out Folio's full list of predictions for 2009 here.
You should also check out coverage of a recent industry conference in which Folio's Tony Silber predicts that the bankruptcies will start any day.

For a look at some of my other predictions of year's past, click here or here.

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