A year marked by breathtaking change

It's that time when a columnist's duty lies in pondering a year rapidly closing, to give a sense of perspective.

But my attempt to reflect on changes to newspaper formats, launches, dramatic evidence of the internet's power and the collapse in confidence over the future of spot broadcast advertising - has been blown off course by the deals coming through thick and fast.

One of this year's hallmarks has been the emergence of great quality colour advertising in national newspapers - the latest campaign from BP is a pleasure.

Heavy investment in new presses and upgrades, combined with the Newspaper Marketing Agency's efforts, are delivering some good outcomes, to a sector clearly in difficulty.

News International is finally doing what traditional national newspaper groups should have done at least 10 years ago - launching targeted, paid-for weekly magazines instead of loading up weekends with surplus supplements. Maybe it's time for ITV to harness magazine publishing?

The media sector, compared with this time last year, is undergoing breathtaking change.

Convergence is an easy word to use, but the way different forms of media, communications and brands are expanding, migrating, morphing, is starting to become an absolute reality, and having a revolutionary impact, causing havoc in traditional market places.

How soon before Tesco TV hops across from stores to home delivered broadband and broadcasting, and broadband television become one and the same thing?

I've just been to the Midlands, to assess the BBC's first local television model (worry not, it's as uncommercial as promised). But ITV Local, the "experiment" on the south coast taking classified ads, is scaring regional papers witless. No wonder Northcliffe Newspapers might be thinking the unthinkable.

Even early adaptors are confused. Sir Robert Phillis, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, has claimed the Guardian Unlimited website spin-off has no clear business plan.

Another battle has been for the mainstream middle ground, access to digital homes, links to the secondary and third sets for semi-converted homes. It's put BSkyB under pressure as never before - from a free to air digital market, with a pay option.

By this time next year, BT will have its mass-market broadband television service - linked with Freeview - up and running.

BSkyB has HDTV on the launch pad. It's another challenge for the advertising sector - no-one is making commercials in that format, but by this time next year will have to.

Cheaper broadband is now the critical factor driving change and is creating a huge upset in the established system of rights to moving images.

Broadcasters are at daggers drawn with producers over the issue of when something is viewed. It is going to become a big issue for audience-measurement systems, as aggregation becomes the name of the game.

ITV's purchase of the profitable Friends Reunited is entirely sensible. ITV plc must diversify away from ITV1 and spot advertising. Clearly Contracts Rights Renewal has hurt it.

Friends Reunited has a big line in genealogy. The highest-rating programme on BBC2 last year was Who Do You Think You Are?

That's a question many media operators are asking themselves, in these changing times.

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