For most media companies, the past few years represent the most turbulent in their history, as name newspapers trim operations and broadcast networks lose viewers to on-demand alternatives. Why in the world would anyone want to invest in a sector like that? Simple: Where disruption exists, so does opportunity.
Look at how the advertising market has shifted. According to the latest data from eMarketer, digital ad spending will rise from $50.73 billion last year to $91.22 billion by 2019. Ads targeting mobile devices will account for 72.2% of the spending at that point.
At the same time, newspaper circulation has declined in each of the past four years. Single-issue magazine sales fell 11.9% in the June 2014 semiannual report from the Alliance for Audited Media. Old Man Media is slowly dying.
While that's problematic for dividend hunters, the same forces pummeling Old Media are creating catalysts for the new breed of curators whose platforms have also democratized the meaning of "media" to an informational feed accessible anywhere, on any device, and compiled not by one source -- but by millions.
Out with the old, in with the new media
That's not as futuristic as it sounds. All three of these top stocks are shaping the future of media in their own ways:
- Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). No other network reports news faster than Twitter, which may be why the login page encourages users to "see what's happening right now." Hashtags crop up to document everything from national tragedies to people and social events. Right now, #NepalQuake is helping to organize coverage of the second major earthquake striking Nepal in two weeks, a disaster of potentially massive proportions. Elsewhere, Hollywood is using reams of Twitter data to help predict the box-office success of its films and to encourage viewers to watch TV programs live. Over time, Twitter sees itself at the center of a $14 billion addressable opportunity. Not bad for a company that's booked just $1.59 billion in revenue over the trailing 12 months.
- Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG). If you're reading news online, chances are you got the story from Google or Google News, the company's curated search engine that pulls content from all corners of the digital globe. There are alternatives, of course, but no single company has done more to organize how we view and consume news than has Google. That it also controls a huge portion of the digital advertising market makes the company a modern-day media titan.
- LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD.DL). Surprised? Don't be. LinkedIn is as determined to be a publishing platform as it is the world's largest and most useful recruiting database, and success has come quickly. Marketing Solutions, the division responsible for encouraging personalities and publishers to engage more deeply with LinkedIn's platform, grew revenue 38% in the first quarter. Members generated over 1 million pieces of unique long-form content during the same period. At that pace, LinkedIn could one day be the source for most of the news about the companies you follow.
Which of these three would you invest in? Any of them? Or would you rather bet on an entirely different media stock? Start the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Tim Beyers sometimes feels like Old Man Media. He's also a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission and owned shares of Apple and Google (A and C class) at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool.
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