If Traditional Media Is Dead, Now What?

newspaper_stress1It’s happened again.  Another failed attempt to reformulate a dysfunctional communication model has been rejected by readers, commuters and, well, basically everyone on the planet.

Back in January, I found an interesting fact on journalism.org that illustrated dramatic declines in readership of traditional newspapers, magazines, as well as viewers and listeners of Television and Radio.

My answer for the declines in readership, viewers, and listeners: Blogs, baby. Blogs! (of course I went into more detail than that…)

But one story eeked out a glimmer of hope for this “old fart.” It was The Printed Blog.

On January 27th Joshua Karp (Twitter: @theprintedblog) launched a twice-daily free PRINT newspaper in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City. The content he published was solely from BLOG content!

This was a venture that I’d invested a tentative faith into – something that just might start the traditional media ship to turn… nope.

On July 7th, Mr. Karp published a letter on The Printed Blog stating,

Despite a significant personal investment on my part, and the additional support of six or seven credit cards, we were unable to raise the minimum amount of money required to reach the next stage of our development. This was a difficult decision for us, but the financial reality of the situation demanded that we suspend further publication immediately, and indefinitely.

Read the full post here.

… AND ALL IN SIX MONTHS? Wow AND Ouch…

What went wrong? Were there ever benefits to having blog content republished in print in the first place?  With the ease of access to social media channels, via G3 networks and wireless expansion, did Mr. Karp continue to move forward with his model? Or was his grip to traditional print simply a mistake?

When asked “What would you do different…” by Nicholas Kinports, over at Admaven, Karp’s myopic response summed up his trouble quite clearly.

I would launch exactly the same business, but I would focus like a laser on one neighborhood, … I’d make a local … edition successful, and prove that I could generate revenue to cover my costs. Then, I’d expand, slowly …, until I was putting them under windshield wipers of cars in the Google parking lot.

And the crux to his failed plan…

The only, reluctant tweak to the concept I wish I had included was a social network. … I was wrong. That’s a component that was missing from my plan.

Certainly was…  He didn’t strategically target and plan for exponential growth…   and didn’t plan that his target as well as his source was constantly moving…

But you have to give Karp credit for his attempt to marry traditional media with an ever-changing, ever-expanding monster like blogs and social media.  I’m sure it was something like lassoing a hydra.

What do we take from this?

Can traditional media survive?

I live in a pretty “traditional midwestern city.”  Des Moines, Iowa is feeling the pinch from the online world and making GREAT strides with converting traditional channels to emerging media outlets, but sometimes, I fear, not fast enough.

The news sources I grew up on are dwindling faster than my hair line; and even my parents (in their mid 60’s) have canceled their subscription to our only daily print newspaper in lieu of “newer” media and news-on-demand sources.  I haven’t listened to anything but satellite or streaming radio for over three months.  My kids have NO idea what the nightly news is, nor do they seem to care.  Wikipedia and their MySpace accounts keep them as informed as teen and pre-teenagers need to be (they think).

So where do we go from here? How can traditional media like print newspapers, magazines and radio survive the change?  Do you have a solution?  Should we just watch it die, or is there a light at the end of this tunnel? (don’t go into the light, Carol Ann!)

Food for thought.

Until Next time…

Keep Cooking!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

9 Comments
  1. 1. Citizen Journalism and crowd sourced news will continue to grow (see death of MJ, Iran, etc as exmaple)

    2. Traditional media will have to adapt to digital distribution and adhere to the laws of the link economy (http://www.buzzmachine.com/2008/06/18/the-link-economy-v-the-content-economy/)

    3. They NEED to realize that paywalls will make their demise FASTER rather than sustain their current state

    • Great information and links to support!

      Now, I wonder if a plan can be developed (if it already hasn’t, a-hem), and can “we” get the publishers, program directors/managers and news directors on board with it?

      Here’s another question… Do you think it’s generational? Is the old-school, boomer way holding too tight to the reigns to let more progressive TACTICS succeed?!? What do you think is going to happen 5… 10 years from now when said generation is retired?

      Thanks for stopping by the blog, Andy!
      Keep Cooking!
      (the other) Andrew

  2. Obviously the “big boys” are unwilling to listen at the top level (News Corp.) as an example – since they’ve recently stated all their news properties will be paid subscriptions by the end of 2010…

    The old school mentality of walled gardens and “stay on my site” does not work with today’s generation. We want information where we want it – not where you want it. This is the fundamental disconnect with these publishers.

    They also don’t realize the potential reciprocity of LINKING OUT to bloggers, etc. They see that as sending users away rather than how they should see it – as a currency.

    In 5-10 years the industry will be completely commoditized and print will be rare – and will exist only in niche content rather than generalized Reuters news snippets.

    Can a plan be developed? Absolutely. Will they listen? Not until it’s too late.

    • Do you think cynicism toward and from each generation may be an issue?

      A: The General Guard stating that “These whipper-snappers and their iWhatevers (thanks Amy 🙂 ) can’t compete with the power and legacy of our traditional roots.”

      B: The Up-N-Comers saying “WTF… These guys are idots! If they simply created a community of XYZ and we could get Andy to develop a widget that streams directly into our spinal column, then…”

      Where do the conversations meet? Or better yet, DOES the conversation meet?

      I feel like I’m in between the two… not quite old-stodgy fart but a little drier behind the ears than a 20-something… Does My generation have the key?

  3. Great post! It goes well with Basu’s column from earlier this week (although regrettably, she doesn’t bring up social media). http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20090705/OPINION01/907050313

    I think the death of trad media is almost inevitable (especially with the generational argument you make above). As a 24-year-old, I don’t want the clutter of newspapers all over the place, when I can carry my nice little iWhatever and have access to everything I want.

    But I also don’t think we’ve come to THE solution yet, as far as media delivery goes. I think we’re still trying too hard to fit traditional media into an online format. I don’t know what the solution is, but we haven’t seen it yet. And yes, I do believe companies will be able to make money from it (mostly because I never thought a company would be able to charge for song downloads, but looks what happened).

    And I really didn’t mean to be so pro-Apple here, but maybe media companies should seriously look at their business model?

    • Amy…

      What do you see as the delivery medium of “Your Generation?” Is it iPhone? Is it more?

      I still watch the evening news, but do you? Most of my business information I get online… How do you and your peers receive it now… and how do you see receiving it in the future?

      Andrew

  4. Delivery medium is a tough question. It has to be electronic though. I kind of like the Kindle, but it’s a bit too big and too specific to print. Whatever it is, it will involve traditional reporting (for investigation), social media, and new media (like widgets and web-based tools).

    I do usually watch the evening news. But here’s the thing – it’s a whole half hour! That’s a long time to sit and soak up a minimal amount of content! 🙂

    • “like the Kindle, but it’s a bit too big and too specific to print.” — So you DO like your media in print as well? Or is it more that you like to pick WHAT you print and WHEN?

      And yes, the combination of traditional research-style media/reporting with social media is a must… I saw that you read E.Basu… So, do you think The Des Moines Register (for instance) is evolving in the RIGHT direction? What could they do to improve their draw – for your generation (you as a case study…)???

      Is anyone from The Des Moines Register interested in joining this conversation?!?

  5. For conventional media to entice new customers they will have to evolve with them.

    As people my age (27) and below turn more to online media for news, so must they begin (or rather get a move on) to stay relevent in delivering their services.

    I do not think that setting fees for all news will be in their best interests, as we can get the same news for free other places. They can and will have to rely more on selling advertising, and could set fees for specific information based on their locations, meaning that while national news is available for free wherever you go online, community news isn’t.