Sometime you just need to back off and look at “the big picture”. Unfortunately, the big picture in media is turning into a blank screen.
I have always been a “media junkie”. I loved the newspaper and got addicted to it as part of the Newspaper in the Classroom program in St. Paul. A group of us kids even tried starting a neighborhood “kid run” newspaper. In high school I wrote 2 years for my school paper. My dad always had a transistor radio going, usually listening to Boone and Erickson on WCCO in the morning or the Twins game at night. In 6th grade I got a great Radio Shack AM/FM and short wave radio. On a cold clear night I thought it was amazing picking up Chicago, Denver, or Canada on the AM dial. And as far as television goes, my mother took me several times to the KSTP studios to watch the taping of local tv shows such as “Treasure Chest” with Jim Hutton.
I tell you this because it saddens me to read and hear about the state of affairs the media industry is currently in. Along with retail and financial, probably no other industry has been so negatively affected by the economic downturn than media. The biggest problem though is this was an industry already in turmoil because of the technological and social changes of the way we get media. In radio, its now Sirrus, internet radio, I pods, and music downloads to your cell phone. Deregulation and more bandwidth has allowed the FCC to open up many more frequencies. AM radio is now like cable tv with a bunch of “niche” market stations filling a hole. In television, regular programming as we know it has been replaced by 100’s of cable tv channels and on demand shows downloaded to your computer hosted by sites like Hulu. Commercials, the way television is paid for, is now fast forwarded with your TiVo. And the local stations that depend so much on ad revenue from shows like the local news are seeing their ad income dwindle along with their audience, as people have “on demand” news on their laptops or by watching CNN.
Maybe you’ve seen the ads being run talking about the possibility of free television disappearing? Many people believe the business model for television is outdated. Cable companies pay cable channels for the right to broadcast their shows. It is the only way you can see these channels. Cable channels have that huge source of income that comes to them along with advertising. That is why Showtime and HBO can artistically create such wonderful original series and NBC is cutting expensive series and trying to replace them with Jay Leno. (don’t forget that COMCAST just bought NBC. Some believe the reason for the transaction was the BRAVO cable channel owned by NBC made more profit for the company than NBC did). The free networks cannot compete and even bid against some of the cable channels for sporting events, the reason so many of the big name events are being shown more and more “off network”. Without the free networks, the local affiliates will be the next to go, and are struggling even now to stay afloat. Several Twin Cities television stations have been staggering on air staff with unpaid time off. Many stations are hiring younger (and cheaper) reporters, having them work longer hours (weekend anchors work Sunday mornings and are back for evening duties on some stations) and are re-running more and more stories over and over. I am sure Dave Moore is turning over in his grave.
The newspaper industry unfortunately is not much better. A website called PAPERCUTS report that this year (2010) already 617 newspaper jobs have been eliminated (including 32 in Minnesota alone). That site reports 584 newspapers in 2009 laid off employees in 2009 and 143 newspapers STOPPED publishing a print edition. For 2009 40.7 people A DAY were laid off in the newspaper field. Many people believe this business model is also outdated and needs to be overhauled. The problem is nobody has come up with the magic fix. Many print papers are on-line, but few have been successful at charging for content. Many papers only have partial content of their news, saving big stories for print only. Some organizations including Minnpost.com and Examiner.com are strictly online sources of news. Some use paid staff with some news gathering background, while others use bloggers or just news junkies who get paid little or nothing to write articles.
Through this fragmented industry is the advertiser. They now have to figure a way to get their message through to their customer. Before with a 4 x 10 ad in your local paper, a few 60 second ads during drive time on a couple of local radio stations, and maybe a 30 second local ad on the 6pm news on tv, you could reach 95% of your market. Those days have come and gone. Now its relationship marketing on Twitter and Facebook, and knowing who your customer really is and that different options touch different customers, and that NO ONE THING REALLY WORKS THE BEST ANYMORE.
Not all of this is bad. Change is going to happen. For every loss involving television, radio or newspapers I hope someone in online or network marketing is gaining. Bottom line in case you haven’t noticed…these 3 mediums are a changing right now and the NEW business models are being written as we speak.
Its at least nice to see news people have a sense of humor. The link below has some very funny quotes from newsrooms around the country. (caution…some of the language is a bit harsh)