The Death of Old Media?

There have been some major headlines in the past week that have largely been ignored for their meaning by the same denizens of the world they live in. Newsweek has been killed off. The Boston Globe, which was purchased for $1.1 Billion, was sold off for $70 Million by the New York Times, a staggering 93% loss. And just a short while ago it was announced that Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post’s primary newspaper operations for $250 Million in cash.

It is deeply ironic that the Times chose to run a crocodile tears article about Newsweek this morning. But then, the problems and cluelessness at the Times have been evident for many years.

In visual media, CBS and Time Warner Cable are at daggers points over programming fees, the ones that continue to inflate your cable bill as viewers seek refuge with Netflix, Roku and other alternatives.

Tina Brown, the publisher of Daily Beast/Newsweek said “It doesn’t matter how talented you are right now. You used to be judged by your performance, but now it doesn’t matter what you do,” she said. “It is quite a business.”

Except that in each case these media empires have run themselves into the ground. The first step was in alienating huge swathes of the demographic base. A merchant, whether of news or other products, must appeal to the most profitable audience it can in order to survive. In the case of the newspapers the alienation was political in nature.

The newspapers and magazines simply stopped caring about presenting objective news. Their political views seeped from the editorial pages to the hard news sections. It is hard to recover when almost 50% of your potential audience will not purchase your product.

The networks face the problem of poor content and poor return on investment. There are a very few winners but with hundreds of channels, most of those networks are scraping by. And with each of them adding a surcharge onto the customer’s bill, the wheat must eventually be separated from the chaff.

Hollywood is crying the blues as well. Spielberg, Lucas and Clooney decry what Hollywood has become and yet their entire careers have been made on big money productions including some very expensive vanity projects. Salaries for the top talent are still in the $20 Million per picture range but somehow it is the financiers fault.

In a way, the same trends in defining downward we see in industry and commerce we are now seeing in the media. Inferior product is driven by inferior thinking and especially in today’s groupthink bubble, there is a crisis not only of content, but of rational thought.

In the case of each of these media meltdowns the old adage has been reversed. Failure has many fathers and mothers.

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3 thoughts on “The Death of Old Media?

  1. Once again you are right on target.

    A friend sent me a note calling my attention to the sale of the Washing Post to Jeff Bezos. This was my reply:

    “I wonder how he will shake it up. The newspaper business is in crisis, and it will take some original thinking to make the print editions of the WP, the NYT and other major papers viable once again. This follows the NYT selling the Boston Globe last week. There is talk around here that the New York Post and the New York Daily News will eventually merge as both are losing a lot of money. I would expect the NYP coming out on top. I haven’t purchased a print edition of a newspaper in several years.

    “As you know, I am on the conservative side, and believe that there is a liberal bias in most of the news media. It is not limited to newspapers, but also affects the other source that most people rely on for their news, television. I just decided that I no longer wanted to use my funds to support the kind of reporting that I was reading. When I took journalism courses in both high school and college, one of the basics of news reporting that was taught to me was that news stories were not supposed to contain editorializing. That tenet has long gone by the wayside. In my mind it becomes egregious when advocacy pieces are presented posing as news stories. It has long been a staple of the NYT, and those who rely on such a source get a distorted view of the real world.

    “Unfortunately, editorializing takes many forms, some overt, and some subtly insidious. The most common form of editorializing is selective reporting, leaving out information that balances a story. Unfortunately, journalists today do not see themselves as reporters in the traditional sense. Most seem to take advocacy positions, although most would deny their bias or that they do so. The problem is that most of them live in an unreal world of colleagues who share their world views, so they come to believe their limited view of reality, and are unwilling to go beyond their limited parameters.

    “The result of all this is that many people are going to alternative news sources, mainly on the web, and there are no restraints on the amount of absolute garbage that spreads swiftly through cyberspace. I must send at least one e-mail per day pointing out to the sender that they forwarded to me a message with misinformation or outright fabrications. My rule of thumb is that if an item seems too good to be true, it probably is just that.

    “I am sorry to go off like this, but it is an area that is a sore spot with me.”

    My comment about “misinformation or outright fabrications” can also apply to the print media. If one was to respond to all of the garbage that appears in newspapers and on television, it would require dedicating your life to writing Letters to the Editor and TV News Directors.

    Joe

  2. Amen, brother. And can someone please explain to me why I have to watch commercials when I am paying $88 dollars a month to Directv? The only thing satellite and
    cable has going for it anymore is sports. Once that becomes free on the net and we idiots can figure out how to hook our computers up to our TV sets, it’s over. YAY!

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