|ITI Group (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Friday the 13th. Perfect date for the announcement of the negotiations about this strategic alliance. Printed media conglomerate, Ringier Axel Springer bids for Polish main horizontal web portal - Onet.pl. And the seller is ITI group, owner of the 3rd biggest national TV channel TVN. I wonder if any of the participating entities will survive next five years on the market...
Not that I am media analytic, I am not. I just have this strange feeling, that those companies are entitled to be in the yellow book of endangered species now. What makes me even more puzzled. This TV channel, TVN, makes the biggest loses in money terms now. And still it seems to be the healthiest one and will probably outlive the rest of the pack.
Ringier Axel Springer story is simple. Printed media is dying, so in 2010 two companies from this industry formed a joint venture in Zurich. The mission is to be the multimedia leader in CEE region. Currently they have 60 press titles and 70... well, 70 web domains with some content. Cash cows are big circulation printed tabloids. In Poland it is a local #1 newspaper - Fakt. Similar titles are distributed in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Serbia. There is visible synergy between the content of those newspapers and Onet.pl, which is infamous for its user generated comments. I strongly believe, that even 4chan public could learn from Onet's readers.
ITI, on the other hand, is a very mysterious company. It is greatly indebted, investor relations inside the group are not clear, and its corporate governance is told to be corrupted by personal interests of the stakeholders - members of two well connected families and their friend from Italy. The only thing we know for sure is that ITI had three years in the row with losses, and their credit line is on the verge of suspension.
One could wonder how this company managed to maintain "business professionals" image and build strong brand for TVN channel. Unfortunately this professional image did not catch up with the reality. ITI history is filled with questionable decisions and final loss of the field in the competition with another independent broadcaster - Polsat.
Onet is the biggest Polish web portal. Its leadership remained stable and unquestionable under leadership of Łukasz Wejchert, talented son of one of the ITI group owners. Łukasz Wejchert could easily maintain leading position, but he struggled to grow with the market. In Feb 2011 portal had 13 456 500 visitors, in Feb 2012 only 13 455 200 (Megapanel PBI/Gemius survey by Polskie Badania Internetu Sp. z o.o. and Gemius SA). Now Wejchert left company and Onet.pl is on sale.
Web portals are very similar to the printed newspapers in one thing: they gonna fall.
The global leader in this industry, Yahoo! is on the verge of
Of course this fight is far from being over yet. Some portals are succeeding in their efforts. Yahoo! has built the C.O.R.E. - advanced algorithm allowing them to serve even 45.000 versions of its home page each five minutes. Overnight Yahoo! provides 13 million different versions of its homepage. User sees on Yahoo! what he wants to see. The content is selected or generated basing on the gender, age, localization and specific actions of the user. You can see beautiful (and a bit scary) visualisation of the C.O.R.E in action here. It works - C.O.R.E. has increased CTR on the Yahoo! homepage 300% since its launch.
AOL.com tries to buy content providers who are able to generate content that works better. They already have Huffington Post, Weblogs Inc. (Engadget) and TechCrunch. MSN owned by Microsoft leverages its integration with Windows Live services, including popular instant messenger software Live Messenger and Microsoft's browser Internet Explorer.
But the truth is, that despite those efforts, the era of web portals is over. Search engines and social media made useless portal's main features. We do not need filters or directories anymore.
With context advertisement on almost every website, advertisers do not need the wide reach offered by web portals. It seems they are useless for both business and Internet users. So, they are going to die as printed media are dying. The only difference is, that while I do not care about onet, I already miss my daily newspaper every morning as I smear cold glass of the iPad screen.