Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved

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Video will not save your media business. Nor will bots, newsletters, a “morning briefing” app, a “lean back” iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter. All of these things together might help, but even then, you will not be saved by the magical New Thing that everyone else in the media community is convinced will be the answer to The Problem.

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One thought on “Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved

  • April 26, 2016 at 11:36 am

    An excellent piece. Very thoughtful and accurate.
    As I see it, the decline of newspapers (and printed media in general) occurred because of dramatic changes in the distribution system. In their heyday, an elaborate distribution system made newspapers a medium that had universal appeal. Editors felt that their product was the keystone, but circulation personnel and advertising people felt the same way. The fact is, this was a a three-legged stool, and a weakness in any leg made the entire construction a bit unstable.
    The advent and growth of television exposed a fundamental weakness in newspapers. But in many regards the only difference between newspapers and television lay in the ability of television to present news more quickly and to include video. As a result, people relied on television for immediate news and upon newspapers for depth of news. Advertisers–once television gained significant saturation–began to understand demographics and focus to sharpen their presentations. But the two learned to coexist.
    Then the computer changed the ballgame completely. The newspaper was an all-purpose medium (one that presented want ads daily despite the fact that many readers used them only occasionally, for example). Television was a time-sensitive medium plus an entertainment vehicle. Computers, providing access to the Internet, essentially obsoleted all previous media. With the Internet, consumers could not only access their specific interests, but could do so in as little or much depth as desired. Want ads migrated to Craig’s List, and other newspaper sections went in other directions. Moreover, the Internet became essentially a library where anyone could find anything they wanted.
    To me, these results appear inevitable. Whereas the newspaper owners and publishers controlled the medium–primarily because they owned or controlled the press–today consumers control the media and tailor it to their own tastes. This is in fact the democratization of the media. In our society and throughout the free world, democratization can be undone only by controlling the media–but the people prefer their new power and are unlikely to yield it.
    Journalists still have value, although most must essentially become entrepreneurs to achieve success. Circulation specialists are dinosaurs, and the inability of newspapers to attract competent delivery personnel threatens the last bastion of their empire. Advertisers, using big data, have learned to laser focus their ad spend, and they have become quite skilled at following the people and their tastes. The game has changed. And it ain’t coming back!


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