Saturday, June 21, 2008

The End for Old Media

Continuing on the early previews of the presentation for CoSIDA:

The current business model of traditional journalism is gone. The iceburg was struck two years ago, and only now are people beginning to understand the ship is sinking. Newspapers are slashing editorial positions with literally hundreds from some of the brand names of the business: New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times. In the past month alone, the local news operations of one of the fastest growing segments – Spanish language television – were shut down by one of the largest Univision conglomerates. Layoffs and non-renewals of experienced, high-salaried television talent is a weekly event. In June, U.S. News and World Report announced they were going to a biweekly format, with daily reports on the website. Closer to home, the very next day, Sporting News announced they were going to the biweekly format and a Digital Daily.

Meanwhile, the unemployed are not going away. They are going on-line. The fired lead meteorologists in Minneapolis and Charlotte created local webcasts to compete with their former employers. They join the Multi-Medias that were already there, making the most of their brand by selling it on the internet while keeping primary jobs in the traditional media and talk radio. This complicates the job of the media relations director. How? More traditionally trained journalists interested in upholding standards on the internet is a bad thing?

This comes back to the legitimacy question. Since the beginning of Audit Bureau and Nielson, the importance of a media outlet was easily defined by common metrics: circulation and viewership. Both were functions of capital. Increasing either measure required lots of money. For decades, press credentials were dolled out based on this pyramid of importance: national dailies, statewide dailies, circulation over 10,000, and so on. What is the measure of internet legitimacy? Click through, page views, unique visitors, persistence on page – each has its place but none are universal. As a result, the blogger or board owner that builds up substantial numbers not only presents a threat to the institution’s reputation, they can make a serious legal case that they have similar audience standing as the traditional media sitting in the press box. Consider that the last time our hometown newspaper reported circulation to the ABC it stood at roughly 15,000; this year the leading message board had over 20,000 members.

No comments: