Editorial: Out of This Crunch Media Shall Flower

Apr 26, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Until recently, the idea of a mass extinction in the media world was inconceivable. But now it’s hard times. And in hard times, media executives need to remember that the content they produce has value.
How did the industry get here? A veritable asteroid fall of reasons.
Along came the Internet, and away went newspaper classified ads. And along came the digital video recorder, and television advertisers were confronted by the reality that consumers don’t actually like watching most spots. (E*Trade’s spokesbaby commercials are the only exception that currently leaps to mind.)
Compounding difficulties, the economy has taken a greed-induced face plant that promises to give marketers and consumers a hangover the likes of which they haven’t seen since the Great Depression.
Newspapers are crumpling. Weaker TV stations are looking for buyers (and finding few) or contemplating bankruptcy. Broadcast networks are exploring ways to do less with less, cutting the amount of programming they distribute.
In times like these, it’s tempting to assume the fetal position, take no chances and pray that the results of inaction will miraculously exceed those of more aggressive competitors who took risks.
It’s tempting to blame the Internet or the DVR for business conditions. It’s also tempting to kill the messenger.
TelevisionWeek recently fielded a call from a media company friend who took umbrage at our new-media contributor Daisy Whitney’s ongoing experiment with disconnecting from cable and satellite and seeking out video programming on the Web or over-the-air.
“How can a publication with ‘Television’ in its title do this?” our friend bellowed said.
We tried to explain that we’d be abandoning our journalistic mission if we failed to support Ms. Whitney’s experiment. After all, in 10 years, the number of people in the prized 18- to 49-year-old demographic who unplug is likely to grow. It doesn’t help our core readers for TelevisionWeek to dig the holes into which they can bury their heads.
His response? “OK, fine, it may be a legitimate journalistic exercise, but why do you have PUBLICIZE it?”
We’re well aware that Ms. Whitney’s experiment strikes some of our more risk-averse readers as disloyal to the industry in some way. They’d like to not think about the fact that in the future, they are going to have to find a way to make money delivering video content to more and more people who aren’t tethered to a living room TV set.
But it’s going to happen, and media executives are going to have to find ways to make a business out of that coming reality. If TelevisionWeek shakes up a few readers long enough to contemplate the possibilities, we’ve done our job.
The fact is, mass extinctions unwind over a long, long time period. It’s not Chicken Little time. The television industry and other media need to be brave and view the mass extinction as the necessary precursor to mass flowerings of new opportunities and business forms.


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