Nick Denton, who rules over the entire Gawker empire, is the most pessimistic man in the media. In a way, this is comforting, because you know it's very unlikely that things will be worse than he predicts. In another, more visceral way, it is not comforting at all. But nobody said it was supposed to be, so oh well. Today Nick has issued his 2009 Internet Media Plan, which amounts to one big Forecast of Doom. Highlights: The main point:
From conglomerates to internet ventures, executives should be planning now on a decline of up to 40% in advertising spending during this cycle. Instead they're sleepwalking into economic extinction—even those lean online ventures which were supposed to take up the mantle and preserve New York's position as a media capital.
A 40% decline is far more pessimistic than any other major forecasts floating around. But not totally unjustified. Nick's bases his grim assessment on Morgan Stanley uber-analyst Mary Meeker's model of how economic slowdowns affect advertising and the experiences of other countries like Japan and Indonesia who experienced banking crises. Using their numbers, a 40% drop in advertising spending is not unreasonable. And he thinks Internet advertising will plunge along with everything else. What does that mean for Gawker Media? His list of how to handle the hard times: only stay in categories that attract advertisers, and give them more value for their money (i.e. more and bigger ads); renegotiate vendor contracts and employee pay downwards; "offshore more"; and, most ominously from an employee standpoint, consolidate titles.
It's time to choose which properties make it aboard the lifeboat. The era of the sprawling network—established franchises mixed in with experimental sites—is over.