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mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Not surprising, but still sad

March 17th, 2008 (12:02 am)

As one whose favorite books growing up were the family's set of Collier's Encyclopedias, the New York Times article linked below was unwelcome news of the inevitable.

Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Apparently, the audience is on strike as well

January 30th, 2008 (10:29 pm)

The London Times has an interesting story about possible permanent damage that the Hollywood writers' strike may have on TV viewership. The article begins:

    American TV networks have lost almost a quarter of their audiences because of the Hollywood writers' strike, according to new figures, and executives fear that “orphaned” viewers may never return.

The fear is, basically, that people who can't watch what they want on TV will develop new entertainment habits that they will stick with, even after the strike is over. As the article puts it:

    Writers as well as studios are worried that lost viewers may never return to TV, instead finding new ways to entertainment (sic) themselves, such as YouTube, Facebook or video games.

This worry is well founded. In addition to the entertainment options listed above, we would add DVDs, iPods, or even good old fashioned books as ways that people can easily while away all the hours they used to spend in front of the TV - and then some. We would also argue that transition in entertainment preferences was well under way even before the strike, but the loss of new programming due to the strike will almost certainly accelerate the process.

Studies have found that much media usage is habitual. People watch or read certain things regularly not only to be entertained and informed, but also because it is part of a familiar and comfortable routine. Once that routine is disrupted, there is a very real possibility that a good chunk of the audience will realize how easy it is to live without TV.

The moral of the story? When much of the traditional appeal of your product is ubiquity, nothing is more dangerous than letting the customer figure out that life goes on without you.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Media Deathwatch: The TV Series?

January 1st, 2008 (07:57 pm)

There is an excellent summary of the current sorry state of the news media and newspapers in particular in, of all places, a promotional video for the new season of HBO's dramatic series The Wire. You can watch it here (be warned, it's almost a half-hour long!):


For those unfamiliar with The Wire, it is a gritty crime drama that focuses on the drug trade in Baltimore. Although it is essentially about cops and criminals, each season looks at some aspect of urban life that is in some way related to the crime issue. In past seasons they've had major subplots involving the public school system, politics, and the shrinking economic opportunities for blue collar workers. The angle this season is going to be about the media, and the challenges faced by the Baltimore Sun's newsroom to cover the city in a meaningful way in the face of budget cuts and diminished influence of the newspaper medium.

The Wire has long been considered a rare "can't miss" show by the staff at Media Deathwatch and we've already screened the first episode of the new season on HBO on Demand. Not only were the observations of the industry in that episode and the video linked above spot on, but we were also excited to see Homicide: Life on the Street veteran Clark Johnson (Det. Meldrick Lewis) starring as the Sun's city editor. We can hardly wait to see how both the drug war and the media war in "Charm City" play out in this final season of a great series.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

TV's problems go well beyond the strike

December 20th, 2007 (08:13 am)

Media Life Magazine has a good piece explaining why broadcast television is in big trouble for reasons that have noting to do with the writer's strike. The subhead for the article sums it up nicely:

    The big story is the strike. The real story is ratings.

The article goes on to discuss how many new shows are failing to catch on with audiences, and how many old favorites are experiencing ratings declines. It concluded with the following paragraphs that bode ill for both the networks and the striking writers.(The added emphasis in the second sentence is ours.):

    What’s more, it’s not clear if viewers will return to broadcast. They seem increasingly willing to forgo TV when there’s nothing of import to watch, and these days there are very few must-see TV events, like “Roots,” who shot J.R. or the “Seinfeld” finale a few years back. Even “American Idol” saw its ratings slip last year.

    And that’s something that can’t be blamed on the strike.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]


December 17th, 2007 (05:16 pm)

A political story from Reuters came out today with the headline Clinton and McCain win big newspaper endorsements. The story's lead made the following claim:

    Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton got a boost to their campaigns for presidential nominations from an influential newspaper on Sunday despite setbacks in opinion polls.

Is that really a tangible boost? Is this anything but a fleeting moral victory for Clinton and McCain that will be forgotten by the electorate and even the news media by week's end, if not sooner? Well, let's pose the question another way...

Everybody who has ever voted for or donated money to a presidential candidate based on the endorsement of a newspaper, please raise your hands.

We thought so.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Aloha means goodbye

December 15th, 2007 (10:09 am)

It appears that "The Nation's Newspaper" has effectively written off an entire state:

USA Today ends Hawaii printing, distribution

We wonder if USA Today will come up with a snazzy front page infographic that shows the decline in ad revenues and circulation that led to this retrenchment. Maybe they could base it around the theme of a Waikiki surfer wiping out, or perhaps an anthropomorhic newspaper swimming furiously back the the mainland while being chased by sharks?

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

No more obscene profits from obscenity?

December 11th, 2007 (06:01 pm)

One of the great constants in human history has been the ability of people to profit from vice. Now, even that is in question. It seems the same forces that are putting economic pressure on traditional for-profit media - the ready availability of communication production and distribution technology to the masses, scads of free content, the ease of pirating digital content, et. al. - are starting to affect the porn industry. Consider this story from the Associated Press:

Porn producer Vivid Entertainment sues X-rated site over piracy

We've said it here many times - in the Internet Age there will be more news and entertainment content than ever before, but it will become increasing difficult to profit from that content. This is a Golden Age for amateur entertainers who want their shot at being seen by the entire world, with emphasis on the word "amateur." If you're charging for content, there's not much to stop anybody from copying it and distributing it for free behind your back. Add the professional pornographers of the world to the list of people who are learning that lesson the har...

Um, well, that's probably a poor choice of expression in the context of this story, but you know what we mean.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Revisiting a prediction

October 12th, 2007 (07:26 am)

Back on August 29 of this year, Media Deathwatch made this prediction about the fate of the afternoon newspaper in Albuquerque, N.M., which was faced with either sale or closure:

    Either no buyer will step forward and the Tribune will close down in short order; or somebody with little knowledge of the newspaper business will buy the Tribune as a vanity project, whereupon it will prove to be a dog and be closed down in short order.

Based on this this report from BusinessWeek it appears that the latter scenario is starting to play out. According to the story "the president of a New Mexico advertising and public relations firm" along with a business partner have made an offer to buy the paper from E.W. Scripps. If the would-be buyers have any experience in running a newspaper, the article doesn't mention it. And while this may or may not be a vanity project for the the parties involved, one does have to wonder a little bit about the possible conflicts of interest involved in a news outlet having the same owner as a public relations firm.

Either way, we predict that if the sale goes through, the owner will soon discover why Scripps is so eager to unload the property, even with the benefits of the Joint Operating Agreement with the city's morning paper that the new owner will not enjoy. As promised back in the original post, we will be tracking the story as it develops.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be communications majors

October 11th, 2007 (09:35 pm)

A Forbes piece detailing "The Worst Jobs For The 21st Century" lists two media professions, journalists and radio announcers, as jobs to avoid in the coming decade. Here's a snippet from the article:

    Another endangered species: journalists. Despite the proliferation of media outlets, newspapers, where the bulk of U.S. reporters work, will cut costs and jobs as the Internet replaces print. While current events will always need to be covered (we hope), the number of reporting positions is expected to grow by just 5% in the coming decade, the Labor Department says. Most jobs will be in small (read: low-paying) markets.

    Radio announcers will have a tough time, too. Station consolidation, advances in technology and a barren landscape for new radio stations will contribute to a 5% reduction in employment for announcers by the middle of the next decade. Even satellite radio doesn't seem immune from the changes. The two major companies, XM and Sirius--which now have plans to merge--have regularly operated in the red.

Media Deathwatch predicts that, in coming years, there will be a lot of opportunity available for bloggers who chronicle the decline of mass media outlets. Unfortunately, the pay for that sort of work will almost definitely continue to suck.

mediadeathwatch [userpic]


October 7th, 2007 (09:52 pm)

The words "media" and "medium" are Latin in origin. The meaning of the Latin root word is "middle." That's especially fitting when considering the various media industries that became empires in the last century. They made their money by being classic middle men. There were creators of entertainment content and people who wanted to consume that content. The traditional media giants got rich by dominating the technology and distribution networks that brought the two groups together.

Perhaps the most striking societal and economic change brought about by the Internet is that it has made it much more difficult to make money simply by being a middle man. The technology and distribution channels are now so cheap and easy to administer, that running them simply can't be huge profitable enterprises in the same way that owning a printing press was in the golden age of newspapers, or the way TV networks were in the days before cable. Producers of just about anything now have unprecedented ability to deal directly with consumers. Increasingly, that dynamic is starting to spill over into the entertainment business. This story from The Telegraph in Britain is a perfect case in point.

The story talks about a number of musical acts, including the rock band Radiohead, who are releasing albums directly on the Internet at no charge. Well, if that doesn't make life difficult for the middle men in the recording industry we don't know what would. It just goes to support something we've been saying for a while about The Internet Age: there has never been a better time for artists, musicians or writers to find an audience for their work. Unfortunately, there has probably never been a worse time since the dawn of the Mass Media Era to try to make a lot of money off that work. It was already getting tougher to turn a buck off recorded music, but now you've got big name acts literally giving their product away!

In the era of free online music, one wonders if the cliche band "success" story of the future isn't going to be one of some scrappy poor kids with talent who defy the odds, put together an album on a shoestring, become overnight sensations, have a runaway monster hit...and ultimately have to keep their pizza delivery jobs anyway.

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