Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to the future for media?

     Very interesting look at the emerging new media that basically says it's going to be like the old, old media -- that is the media before the consolidations and conglomerations of the past, oh, say 100 years.
     In other words, analyst Nic Brisbourne suggests news will be in lots of smaller units, depending on solid journalism and coming at the news from all sorts of areas, like American newspapers were plentiful and very competitive. 

E&P special report looks at newspapers' social media use

    What is the proper role of social media for newspapers?  Editor & Publisher  offers both the advantages and problems of social media for newspapers in a nicely-done long piece. The special report does a nice job of balancing both sides of the story

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Newspapers getting only a fraction of revenues from online

Surprise, surprise. The newspaper industry is disappointing to a veteran analyst for its lack of adapting to the digital age -- especially in revenue. For many reasons (tradition, concerns about upsetting readers/viewers, ineptitude), newspaper companies have been slow to adapt in many areas.

Sure, they will respond, we all put up web sites early on. We're reporting more news sooner than ever. Our web sites are the best news sites available. And they're right. But what they've done is cannibalize their existing brand, to bring over a term from retail marketing. Now I don't have an MBA like so many media managers, but I can see that what the newspaper industry has done is move readers of a revenue-making print product over to a woefully-weak revenue-producing online product seemingly without thinking much about it. That way lies dragons and dropping off the face of the Earth, as the old maps used to say.

Today's report, by analyst Ken Doctor, finds that only a fraction over 11 percent of newspaper revenues come from online, either in subscription or advertising revenues. If your business plan is to build up online at the expense of print -- the seeming business plan of most newspapers -- you have a plan to spiral down the drainpipe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pentagon seeking fans to cover its wars

      News that the Pentagon is examining recent work by reporters seeking to be embedded in U.S. troops raises an interesting question. Although the Pentagon denies it ever denies access based on a writer's work, journalists should always be skeptical.  The question in my mind is: why would newspapers, which would never allow an entertainment figure to ban critics based on their favorable coverage, allow the military to do the same.

     I remember shortly after Kim Carnes hit it big with the song "Betty Davis Eyes" when her representative called me (I was entertainment editor at The Milwaukee Journal) seeking advance publicity for a concern. "Kim will talk with your reporter," she said, "but only if the reporter is a fan. She doesn't talk to non-fans."  Needless to say, we didn't interview her since I'd never assign a fan to an interview, and her career tanked shortly afterward.

     Yes, I realize the media is filled with fanboys and unethical hangerson, but I can't imagine journalists allowing anyone to dictate their coverage.

Movie listings moving online; it' both industry's and consumer's loss

   Continuing my free market rant (ranting is one of  the things I do well), along comes a story that says movie listings are being pulled from newspapers in favor of online. Movie listings, the small-print displays that showed all theaters, once were by far the best place to compare show times. Studies have shown (see previous post) that consumers prefer newspapers for comparisons.
     But newspaper managers are terrible at selling their strengths, and allowed the theater companies to break up the unified listing into listings by chain or, in the rare cases they still existed, individual theaters. This cut into the usefulness of the listings.  Of course, this was helped along by consolidation within the theater business allowing the big chains to dominate.  

    Now, way too late, the newspaper industry is telling theaters that eliminating print ads will hurt the theaters both in sales and in visibility.  Of course. But the industry is in thrall to cheap Internet marketing, so it doesn't really matter if it works (and I'll point to declining numbers attending movies to say that it doesn't work).

Is media multitasking eating your brain?

     As I sit here with a television running and a laptop in my hands, I can't help but wonder at the future of media as I read the story "Media multitaskers are in danger of brain overload." However, the story has a lot of implications for media.

     A research team found that students who media multitask -- like watching television and posting online -- do a poor job of both.  That's why I still get most of my news from printed newspapers even though I spend more time looking at online news sources.  

     Among the things that tells me as I think of current media trends is to question the television gods who decreed that screens must be cluttered with four or five elements (crawls, boxes, characters promoting other shows, etc.), something that's always annoyed me since they detract so much from the picture, which is why I'm watching television in the first place. I can't help but believe that's one reason why television watching is down. It also makes me wonder about the "hot" new idea of televisions that are offering online access as well.

     One thing about the free market is that it offers lessons about consumers' likes and dislikes.  A lingering concern I've had about media is that its managers seem to ignore those lessons.  I remember after the start of USA Today when conventional wisdom in newspapers were that people didn't have time to read so keep everything short.  One result is today's newspapers that are losing readers. I expect that this fall's official circulation figures will show that the Journal Sentinel, which has cut back severely on content, will have lost more readers than any time in recent years.  Give people less, and charge them more, and they'll find alternatives.  The same for television where all the happy talk and non-news have turned once rock-solid viewership for evening broadcasts into great viewership for the "Daily Show" and other alternatives to news. Where once CNN could be counted on as a place for news, today's it's filled with the same kind of fluff as the rest of the cable "news" channels -- and viewership is way off.  Will today's media managers learn some of those free market lessons before they're out of business?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is talk media talking itself out of a place on the air?

Even before President Obama was elected, conservatives were warning that "liberals" were out to kill talk radio. Well, the talkers themselves may have done the job.

In an article titled "Political Talk Shows Talk Themselves Out of Ads," Ad Age magazine (a must-read for journalists) reports on the advertisers fleeing the Glen Beck talk show. They also are leaving, in smaller numbers, other talk shows. The feeling appears to be that the talk shows are beginning to turn off more consumers than they are attracting, especially coupled with radical views like those of Beck.

The question remains as to how much longer it will be before local advertisers pull out of what is all-to-often accurately called "hate radio." As someone who loves real discussions (and believes the nation needs respectful dialog), I'd rather see the talkers change than see them disappear. But, given the inaccuracies and inflamed rhetoric lately, it wouldn't be surprising to see them die out.