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Strategic insights
Understanding the Complex Macro Trends That Define the Media

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Written by on May 20, 2017

Every time we have a discussion about how publishers should make money in the new world of media, there is an overwhelming sense that we just need to replace the old model with a new one. That was how media used to work.

In the past, every single publication was sold the same way.

Every magazine had the same format for advertising and they all had the same form of sales, being a combination of single-copy sales at newsstands and home delivery via subscriptions.

This is why, when you look at a traditional newsstand, you see this wall of magazines. The editorial focus might be slightly different, but they are all part of the same approach.

This is one market, one behavior and one model.

(Image via Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures' Flickr)

The problem is that the digital world doesn't like this. Instead, the digital world has a lot of smaller markets, each much more specific than anything we had in the past.

So, publishers can't just replace the old market with a new one, because that market doesn't exist. Instead, we are moving into a world where everything is much more complex and much more atomized.

But even this is a very simplified way of looking at things, because the real shift is about a lot of different macro-trends all changing at the same time.

The result is that you can have two magazines that kind of cover the same thing, but each requires wildly different publishing strategies depending on, for instance, what moment they are optimized for.

So, in this article, I'm going to invite you into my world as a media analyst, and illustrate just how complex this new world of media is. But I will also illustrate how you can make sense of it and use this to help you understand where to focus and how to evaluate if something will work or not.

It all starts with a map.

The trend map

About 3-4 times per year, I take time out from other projects to sit down for about a week or two to just think about all the different trends that I see.

This time I decided to do this in a more visual way so that I could share it with you, and the result is what you see below (larger version here).

At one end we have the big macro-trends that are changing the way we do things in pretty substantial ways. Then we see all the smaller macro-trends that are happening because of the bigger trends.

The first thing you will notice is that it isn't a straight line. It's not like one big trend is leading to another big trend. Instead, it's almost always a combination of big trends that then cause others trends to form.

But let's take a much closer look at this, and let me illustrate how different macro-trends lead to very different outcomes and business models.

The 10 macro trends

If we look at the very general macro-trends, we find there are about about 10 of them.

These are the shift from...

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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