Friday, October 12

Stuggling To Be Relevant: Old Media

Last year, most people said it wouldn’t happen. Now it is happening out of desperation. The people who social media participants and bloggers call “old media” are working as quickly as possible to change everything and become the, um, new new media.

Old media is not struggling; they are fighting for survival.

According to Bloomberg, BusinessWeek is doing everything possible to keep up. The magazine is undergoing a facelift and adding stories on new products and personal finance. It is updating its logo and typefaces.

Advertising pages dropped 20 percent and advertising sales dropped 15 percent. Hard copy circulation is down 1.2 percent. Online, the story is different. Its Internet readership is up to 6.5 million unique visitors a month from 1.7 million a month in 2004. But ad sales online only account for 18 percent of its revenue.

“All traditional business publishers are struggling to find the right formula,” said Peter Kriesky, Kreisky Media Consultancy in New York. “None of them have reached the promised land.''

What if there is no formula?

ABC seems to be asking the same. So while it tends to be the quietest of all networks about its plans for network-Internet convergence, The New York Times says it is the only major network that is using the staff of its evening newscast to produce a separate and distinct daily program for a Web audience as opposed to repackaging (that’s largely true).

The 15-minute Webcasts often feature Charles Gibson in the anchor chair and ABC News correspondent. Bill Blakemore recently finished a special on global warming. I watched their Web segment on the Pennsylvania shooting plot this morning. It’s not perfect (ABC needs a full screen option, among other things), but it is a step in the right direction and more promising than repackage plus option being made by other networks.

Innovation will lead the way.

This is not to say traditional media is not content relevant (they are). They simply lack in platform building, appropriate technology, and understanding active consumers (as opposed to passive readers and viewers). Too many are following old models and formulas.

Time Magazine’s Bill Tancer found one piece of the puzzle: according to the Solutions Research Group, roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 use their computers while watching television at home.

What's the answer? It seems to me that consumers want integrated print, broadcast, and Internet. And while mobile devices seem to be chugging along, we’re still past prime time for a dual-device entertainment interface that allows people to watch programming on a big screen while participating online with their smaller screened laptops that function like a universal remote. Of course, all this assumes cable companies stop double dipping by charging people twice for essentially the same service.

Sounds like an Apple of an opportunity to me.

As for where print and broadcast seem to be missing the mark online right now, maybe that’s better served up in the weeks ahead. At the moment, I have some old media ads to write. As much as times are changing, some things have not changed.



Valeria Maltoni on 10/12/07, 10:43 AM said...

Very good set of thoughts here, Richard. Especially to me as I'm fresh from a post essentially asking how do traditional media plan to build authority online? I solved the issue of double dipping from cable companies -- no TV ;-)

Rich on 10/12/07, 11:06 AM said...


Splendid indeed! Most cpu screens are just better television monitors anyway. Now all we need is a good transition model.

Anyway, I was just about to look your new media plan concept but became to distracted by your Twitter post (in the best way).

All my best,

Sweet Tea on 10/12/07, 2:46 PM said...

Great post Rich. How will they build authority online?
I like Valeria's comment, "The most powerful content of all is people themselves..."

Rich on 10/12/07, 5:04 PM said...


I'm not convinced anyone can build authority online. You are as good as your last content.

But I do think traditional media can establish lead positions by doing what they used to do: providing original, sometimes exclusive content, online. And with deep resources (assuming they do not wait too long as their existing ad budgets shrink), many of them will become leading sources of information again.

I think the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are a step ahead in accomplishing this. Obviously, it's a greater investment on the part of broadcast media so they seem slower. But once they get it right, they too will command some attention.

Honestly, I am not happy about all the changes taking place. Several niche publications that were decent, but did not have a decent business models, have already folded because they could no longer secure advertisers.

This is becoming less of a transition and more of a shake up. Those who wait too long will be buried.

However, the greatest misconception out there right now is that current leaders in social media will somehow be looked at setting the foundation, with each receiving some sort of footnote for their contribution.

I don't know about that. Many will be buried and even if their content is online, it will one day be forgotten or removed much like the first Web sites have been, much like some books are removed from the library, much like almost anything.

The concept of Internet immortality is over-hyped.

All my best,

Rich on 10/12/07, 5:10 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

Of course, there are ways for networks to control their content ad Buffy fans recently found out.

Jack Payne on 10/14/07, 3:12 PM said...

You are right about integration of viewership between the net and TV (Though I didn't know the figure was as high as 37%)Ihave a web tv anduse my big screen TV to switch back and forth.

The networks are really dragging their heels in getting adjusted to the new way of doing things. If they don't wise up to streaming, in transmission of all their files, pretty soon, they might just get passed up completely, stomped in the mud as the aggressive marketers rush on by.

Rich on 10/15/07, 1:44 PM said...

Thanks for the comment Jack,

The networks are too busy working to be right, right now, to be any faster. While Nielsen has some short comings, it is about time they did not allow two broadcasts to equal one rating tally.

It seems to be a sign that Nielsen is listening to the consumers because they are beginning to change their base of operations.

All my best,

Rich on 10/17/07, 10:43 AM said...

More words:

"The number crunching, conducted by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global, confirms what many advertisers and media buyers have long suspected: there is a drop-off in the number of viewers between a program and its ads." — Ad Age


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