December 15, 2006

Business Question: Will Old Media Change, or Go Under?

ANSWER: Indications are ….. they’re volunteering to do the latter.


More time and energy has been spent on the business side of the print, radio, and TV media since I started BizzyBlog than I ever expected.

My intent was initially to focus on errors, omission, and bias in specific reports on and opinions about current economic events, and plenty of that has taken place.

I did not anticipate covering the implosion of Old Media as a story unto itself, but it has been impossble not to. That’s because even when it has become clear that out-of-balance, out-of-touch, and intractably-biased newsrooms have been the primary contributors to declining circulations, falling viewership, and in-the-tank stock prices, Old Media has responded by laying people off, and changing almost nothing else. It’s as if they would rather die than change how they do business. It seems to me to be almost unprecedented in the annals of business for virtually an entire industry to take on such a mindset.

The litany of the staggering seems endless. Just off the top of my head, there’s NBC/MSNBC, the LA Times (layoffs at least twice), the Washington Post (layoffs at least twice), the New York Times (share price down over 50% in 3 years), Knight Ridder Newspapers (ultimately sold), almost every major paper in Ohio, etc., etc. Yet no one seems to ask if there is anything out of whack about the news product or a serious disconnect from the audience. They slough it off on the Internet (which, though relevant, cannot possibly fully explain the steep circulation declines that are occurring), and move on with the same old slanted news coverage as if nothing happened.

The latest example of “we don’t need to change” comes from hiatused Black Swamp Conservative Chad Baus of the Buckeye Firearms Association. Read the whole exchange of e-mails. There is a relationship between an organization that won’t acknowledge an obvious mistake, even when caught red-handed, or the need to change, and this. And so, it will continue.

In the midst of a generally strong economy, the decline of Old Media is second only to that of the comeuppance occurring at Detroit’s traditional Big Three as the industry implosion story of the past 5 years. That’s why it has gotten the attention it has here, and will continue to.


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