Traditional (“old”) media finds itself experiencing an earthquake of change as online (“new”) media changes the rules of the game. Some publishers and broadcasters find themselves struggling to adapt, while others thrive on the ability to innovate. The competition becomes more intense by the day and the fears among old school journalists and media executives rise in direct proportion.
Let me be clear: I am not one who believes that new media will kill old media. Newspapers, broadcast television, and terrestrial radio are here to stay. Those who innovate and adapt will thrive; those who fail will perish. The solid gold oldies and the young turks must all play on the same playing field today, and understanding how the rules are being rewritten will be key to future success for both camps.
1. Publishers are Broadcasters and Broadcasters are Publishers.
Media convergence has arrived. Newspapers are producing audio and video. TV and radio are producing print copy. Media outlets no longer find themselves constrained to one specific medium. Technology permits all media outlets to compete on each other’s turf.
2. Column Inches and Broadcast Minutes are No Longer Limited.
It used to be that print reporters would see stories dropped because there weren’t enough available column inches to print the article. TV and radio journalists would get squeezed out because an hour only has 60 minutes no matter how you slice it. Today, the web enables all media to publish and produce unlimited content. This is a blessing and curse because it means a lot more high quality material makes it into the public arena, but it is harder to kill low-quality stuff without telling the journalist that directly.
3. The Audience Can be a Partner in Content Creation.
When breaking news hits, the audience now contributes. Media outlets openly solicit still and video footage from cell phones or other portable devices for disasters and tragedies. Remember the student whose cell phone video footage made it on CNN in a seemingly endless loop after the Virginia Tech shooting? Local stations do the same thing for pictures of floods and other natural disasters. Even the print media has gotten into this game.
4. The Media Now Competes with Its Own Audience.
The rise of blogs, podcasts, and online video now mean that media outlets are competing with their own audiences. Anybody can create a podcast that competes with NPR, a blog that competes with the Washington Post, or a video site that competes with CNN. Everyone can be a broadcaster and publisher, at low cost and with minimal effort.
5. Old Advertising/Revenue Models Will Be Replaced.
You can’t put a 30 second pre-roll ad on every 2 minute news story. Nobody sticks around to watch post-roll. Podcasts aren’t radio, so the same ad structure doesn’t work. Full-page display advertising? Not on a newspaper web site! And classified advertising hasn’t simply migrated to the web, the whole nature of it has changed. Where’s the line between classifieds and eBay auctions? Between Craigslist and a yard sale? Similarly, despite ESPN’s efforts, ISP’s aren’t typically going to pay to carry content. And subscription revenue models will need to be revamped to recognize the shifting landscape.
6. Archives are Valuable.
In the old days, the only people who cared about newspaper morgues and tape libraries were researchers, librarians, and other hard-core information professionals. Today search engines can help open these archives up to a public, hungry for information. Looking at old articles no longer require microfiche or a subscription to a legacy research service. Digging up old video doesn’t need to involve a call to a service that fetches a dusty videotape and copies it. Archives can be a source for ongoing traffic — and thus revenue — to media outlets.
7. Niches Have Increasing Value.
The old media paradigm precluded effective niche publications. A truly focused niche would likely have too few potential subscribers to justify a magazine. Certainly a radio or TV show would be unlikely to be devoted to these niches. But highly-targeted niches have real value for audiences, content creators, and marketers and can be exploited effectively in the new media world. Consumers increasingly want to see just the slice of information they’re interested in, and generic national, international, business, and entertainment news increasingly becomes a boring commodity.
8. Unedited Content is Becoming More Common.
Stories are going online in print, audio, or video with less and less editing. As news cycles disappear and are replaced by the world of instant information, credible journalists are posting to blogs and producing audio and video so quickly that editing would be impractical. Content producers must therefore trust their content creators to make sound editorial judgment by themselves on the fly.
9. News Cycles are Dead. Information is Instantaneous.
In the Edward R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite/David Brinkley era, news cycles lasted 24 hours until the next nightly newscast came on the air. Twenty-four hour cable news networks began to shrink the news cycle and Web 1.0 brought it down to mere hours. Today, the news cycle is dead. Information transmits instantaneously and responses often come before the news is completely made. In politics, a presidential debate doesn’t even conclude anymore before detailed responses, rebuttals, attacks, and supplemental information has been made public. The “official” pundits have yet to offer their views on TV before the new media space has rendered judgment of their own.
10. Choices, Choices, and More Choices.
For those who thought that cable television ushered in an age of too many choices for consumers, welcome to the Media 2.0 world. There are now more information choices than there are products in a Wal-Mart Supercenter. (A Supercenter has about 116,000 different products on sale.) Even someone interested in a niche as focused as bacon can find 1,050 blogs tagged for that subject, according to Technorati’s directory. (I’m sure that list has a lot of fat in it, but there’s lots of meat as well — OK, I couldn’t help myself.)
Readers of this blog and listeners to my podcast know that the future of media continues to fascinate me. The opportunities to innovate and excel in this arena could not be richer. The possibilities are plentiful and the value in success is high for those who innovate and execute well. Ultimately, consumers and innovators will both win.