Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 30, 2008 9:17 PM

Mass Media - Mass Destruction

It is not just about the music industry. Television is feeling it. Radio is feeling it. Magazines are feeling it. Newspapers are feeling it. Movies are feeling it. Books are feeling it. Even websites and Blogs that act like mass media are feeling it too. What are they feeling?

The end (as they have known it to be).

There were four extremely powerful Blogs posts and articles that hit varying perspectives on various mass media enterprises that have come out over the past few days. All of which will be listed below and all of which are worthy reads. The net result is that nothing looks all that hopeful for them and their future (if they keep on keeping on as they have been for years). It was four very tough pieces of content to digest considering the time of year. Instead of looking forward to a brand new year of hope and opportunity, it looks like mass media is about to face mass destruction. Not from a content or audience perspective, but from a need to really look into their own mirror and decide who, exactly, they want to be in a world where the term "media fragmentation" is passed around far too easily without bearing the serious consequence of those two simple words, and advertising dollars are going to have to be divided amongst many more players than any of them ever imagined.

Audiences seem to be everywhere and nowhere.

Advertisers seem to be leery of what mass media can do for their brands and even more skeptical of online marketing.

Content Piece #1 - The Wall Street Journal - All I Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper by Paul Mulshine (hat tip - Matthew Ingram):

"This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren't doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they're under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.

So if you want a car or a job, go to the Internet. But don't expect that Web site to hire somebody to sit through town-council meetings and explain to you why your taxes will be going up. Soon, newspapers won't be able to do it either."

So, great Journalism and the future of newspapers would have been secured if help wanted and automotive ads had not worked more effectively online? The new reality is this: before people didn't have a choice where they could go if they were looking for a job. It's not the advertisers fault that they found a more effective way to get their advertising to work. It's the newspaper's fault for not figuring out a better business model and delivering something more than a shell to surround those types of ads. People did not stop reading newspapers because those ads shifted online, they stopped reading newspapers because the content was not relevant to them anymore. The sooner newspapers become relevant to people, the sooner they will discover their future. The reality is that it may not be the same amount of mad money as it was when they were the only game in town - and that's the real and mundane reality.

Content Piece #2 - Mssv - The Long Decline of Reading by Adrian Hon:

"The closer you look at the statistics, the more depressing it gets. In the US, only 47% of adults read a work of literature - and I don’t mean Shakespeare, I mean any novel, short story, play or poem - in 2006. If that doesn’t sound too bad, consider that it’s declined by 7% in only ten years. It doesn’t matter whether you look at men or women, kids, teenagers, young adults or the middle-aged; everyone is reading less literature, and fewer books... But it’s not just bad, it’s awful. Reading skills for all levels of educational attainment are declining, up to and including people with Masters and PhDs. Reading is strongly correlated with all sorts of good things, such as voting, volunteering, civic responsibility, and even exercise. Furthermore, reading skill at a young age is a very good predictor of future educational success and earnings. Correlation is not causation, but it’s a fact that employers are demanding people with better reading and writing skills."

You would think that with Blogs, mobile text messages, Facebook, etc... that young people are reading a lot more than when the only choices were books or TV. I would argue that people, in general, are probably reading a lot more than they realize (think about email, etc...), but there is a bigger issue here: Snackable content is easily digested and just as easily forgotten. Let's not forget about the different types of learning we get from the different types of reading. This is one of the primary reasons why picking up a book is such an important part of your personal development. Speaking of which...

Content Piece #3 - - The Time of the Book by Tom Engelhardt (hat tip - Hugh McGuire):

"A friend (and author) called me recently after visiting a large bookstore in Northern California and, his voice suitably hushed, told me that, on a weekday, he had been the only customer in sight. That's typical of the nightmarish tales about traffic in bookstores and book sales now ripping through my world as 2008 ends... Publishing houses are certainly bleeding and those that haven't yet started to take staff and books out to the woodshed, axe in hand, are going after end-of-the-year bonuses, raises, and who knows what else, while management girds its loins for 'the inevitable.' After all, in malls across America, the chain bookstores are getting mauled (just like other retailers). Traffic at many bookstores nationwide has evidently slowed to a trickle. Book orders have reportedly fallen off a cliff. It's now being said that, in this Christmas season, no popular book is selling so well as to be unavailable. In other words, if you want it, it's going to be at your local Barnes & Noble. For publishing, that's like an obituary."

This non-ad supported media is also feeling the digital pinch in a big way. If you think e-books and the Amazon Kindle is going to be this industry's salvation, take a look at the amount of publishers, authors and book-sellers and compare that with the amount of people who not only buy books, but actually read them and buy some more.

Content Piece #4 - TechCrunch - Content Sites Bracing For 50% Revenue Slowdown by Michael Arrington:

"Display advertising revenue is going to fall of a cliff in January according to a number of content sites I’ve spoken with who rely on advertising for revenue. 'Sales through December were mostly strong as advertisers used up their marketing budgets,' said one sales exec. But, he added, 'there are few buyers for this next fiscal quarter, and those few that are buying are looking for steep discounts.'

Just how bad will it be? I’ve heard estimates of 30%-80% revenue drops over the next three months from companies that serve a variety of content (games sites, tech news, celebrity news, political news, etc.). The median pessimism point is around 50%. The people I’ve spoken with work at large public companies and small one-person blog shops. Absolutely no one I spoke with said they expect an up quarter."

A New Year's Resolution.

Start thinking right now about the business you're in. Start thinking right now about your clients and how they connect to their consumers. Start making resolutions around strategy, business development and relationship building. The challenges are not going to pass us by like ships in the night. Starting out of the gates in 2009 next week, we are all going to be faced with one of the most challenging years the marketing, advertising and media business has ever seen - from all angles.

How are you going to change and evolve in 2009?

By Mitch Joel