What Do You See As The Future For Major Media Companies?

I was fortunate enough to attend a New Media Dinner last night which was hosted by Mr. Strauss Zelnick and featured a discussion moderated by Mr. David Remnick.

One section of the discussion focused on the print media and their online properties vs random bloggers….. (Like MEEEEE!!! *waves* :D). David asked the group [paraphrasing] “What do you see as the future for major media companies?”. I elected not to say anything, because as y’all know who read my material, I don’t like to throw in two cents and leave it at that. I wouldn’t have been content with throwing my idea out there and having the conversation just move on, so I saved it for this morning.

Basically, the point was that there have been major publications like the New York Times (NYT) and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and television networks like ABC, CBS & NBC that have had the media industry ON SMASH for, like, forever. That’s all going away now, because everybody has phones that either have still photo or video capability and everybody AT LEAST has a blog, and at most is hooked up to some sort of live-streaming site like Qik. All bets are OFF when Ustream releases their iPhone app. It’s going to be live video straight to people’s phones… crazy! 😀

Anyway, the question was basically how people saw these Mainstream Media (MSM) groups evolving to keep up with and remain viable in these changing times. My prediction will be based on several things that guests brought up during that discusssion.

Fact vs. Opinion

In any situation, there are at least two elements. There are “The Facts”, and then there are people’s OPINIONS ABOUT “The Facts”.

Let’s say that we accept as “a fact” that someone spat on Michael Arrington @ the DLD conference in Munich. Since nobody else reported this, his actual post contains all the ‘factual’ information.

There are lots of blogs which reposted a couple of blurbs from his post and made no comment AT ALL as far as the blog-writer’s OPINION about the situation. This is what I call Ambulance-Chasing. There’s a hot topic, and you just repost it ASAP so you can try to get some Google hits. *yawn*

Other blogs reposted blurbs and then gave their opinion about the situation itself and in a lot of cases, the reasoning behind why they feel the way they do about it. This is where you start to see the difference between random bloggers and trained professionals. Arrington went from DLD to Davos so quickly that by the time some bloggers found out about the incident and rushed to reblog it, they reported that he got spat on @ Davos, which is in an ENTIRELY. DIFFERENT. COUNTRY. from where the actual event occurred. You don’t expect this from MSM, because a) they’re trained and b) if they fumble on simple facts like this, their credibility goes out the window, which is detrimental to their careers.

Still other blogs gathered “The Facts” and attempted to write an actual STORY around them. This is where MSM pulls away, for the most part, because the people that work for these organizations are professionals who most likely have some sort of training in fact-gathering AND “storytelling”. Another issue is that a lot of bloggers are scared to death to give an opinion on anything, lest they disagree with someone or someone disagrees with them. Hate it when THAT happens! :/

Value Added?

So the question becomes “What is the value added by going to MSM for your ‘news’ instead of random bloggers?”. This is actually a VERY good question. 😀 … On February 09, 2007 (hehe wow… almost EXACTLY two years ago, today :D) I was filming a video for a local politician and Sen. Hillary Clinton rolled through…

This happened around 11 AM, and I rushed home and dropped my post @ 1:13 PM, about two hours after it actually happened. Meanwhile… Even though there were MSM cameras there, there was ZERO mention of her speech on the 12 noon news and either a short sound bite or NOTHING on the 6 PM news.

So the options in this case were to a) Watch the entire speech from some random blogger’s site, or b) See little to none of it on MSM networks, because they’ve only allotted a certain amount of time (if any) to this story.

* I’ve STILL never seen ONE VIDEO, other than mine, of this speech in its entirety. *

That was two years ago… Today, we have situations where Twitter is SERIOUSLY beating MSM to the scoops. Even another MSM provider, CNN is beating print media up with their cable television offerings as well as CNN.com. MSNBC’s on the case sometimes, as well. The point, however, is that by the time that newspaper hits your doorstep, you probably already heard/saw/read all of “The Facts” of the situation. “The Facts” are distributed by The Associated Press (AP). As soon as those “facts” are released, they permeate the blogosphere via people’s derivative posts. You can hit Google Blog Search as soon as you hear about something and see a list of blogs that have already reposted the facts.

IMO, This means that the only thing MSM has left to hang onto is “opinion”. The only reason people would remain loyal to MSM sources is that they TRUST the hired professionals that they’ve been listening to for ages and/or that they find added value in their style of fact-gathering and “storytelling”. MSM organizations will find ROI in their employees within their ability to cultivate, maintain and grow passionate and loyal viewers & readers. Similar to the NFL or any other professional sports league, there will be lots of journalists that don’t make the cut and don’t make sense to retain, as far as the bottom line. I think this should lead to a filtering of news staff employees across the board, favoring quality over quantity, and make MSM organizations bastions of heralded and respected storytellers.

Shifting Focus?

Bill CammackOf course, all this stuff assumes a few things, such as people HAVING computers and internet connections to begin with, and not having a particular affinity for “reading the paper”, like an actual, PHYSICAL paper.

It also assumes that people will regard “fact + blogger opinion” in anywhere near as high regard as they hold “fact + MSM opinion”.

The problem, however is that the kids (read: Future newspaper buyers… or NOT!) are growing up using their smartphones. They interact with their friends on phones, get their news from phones, read books on phones, watch videos on phones…..

The days of Al Bundy taking a newspaper or magazine to the bathroom are just about over. Physically printed publications are shutting down left and right. Even internet ‘magazine’ properties are consolidating and downsizing. In a minute, it’s not going to be enough to graduate from college with whatever degree you have to have to become a journalist. The budget’s going to be reserved for the top dogs.

So we’ll see what actually happens, but that’s my prediction. The only way MSM’s going to be able to remain profitable in the way they have in the past is to focus on the value added by their professionally-trained staff bringing a flavor to the reporting of “The Facts” that keeps people interested in coming back. They’re also going to have to get with the program as far as where the next generation’s attention is focused.

I believe I found out on Twitter that a crane fell down several blocks away from my house. I KNOW I found out on Twitter that a bridge fell down in some other state. I know that several of President Obama’s speeches & rallies were broadcast live during his campaign, via Ustream. Speed is *CRITICAL*. Sending a crew out with tape in their cameras, physically bringing those tapes back to the office, having a producer write a story and hand off the materials to an editor for near-future release isn’t going to cut it anymore. Writing about the plane that was landed safely in the Hudson River by Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III (THANK YOU for not landing that plane on our HEADS, Captain Sully!!! :D) and having that story appear on your doorstep the next moring isn’t going to cut it anymore.

So what do you think, as far as whether MSM will stand as-is, fall or successfully adapt? If you already wrote something, feel free to link to your article in the comments, below.

~Bill Cammack

Twitter: BillCammack
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6 Comments

  1. IMHO, The next wave will be Content Monetization. The future Major Media Companies will be the ones who make their content ‘free-r’, have better search heuristics, generate personalized content, and allow us to flock to it, discuss it, remix it, and promote it as we feel fit.

    Companies that don’t embrace the web 2.0 technologies that enhance content monetization are on the way out. Many (currently) major media companies are not interested in relaxing copyright restrictions, which is a major part of an enhanced online experience. These media companies are going to be eclipsed by the content creators and aggregation websites who embrace tagging, meta-data, etc.

    But on the otherside, the major companies who embrace it, and new companies that enhance content will have a bright future.

    1. Interesting ideas, Vergel. 🙂 They’re definitely going to have to do something to supplement their apparently-decreasing ROI.

      I’d also like to see what’s going to happen to the people that end up getting downsized. I think that if they’re smart, they’ve already built up a fan base and enough social cred to start their own sites and attempt to monitize them, partially in the ways you mentioned.

  2. I haven’t read a physical paper in about 10 years. I don’t watch network news because they only give you what they want to see. So you might find some non-truths on the internet but you can browse to your heart’s content and look for people’s opinions and what they saw as the truth, if you watch CNN, NBC, ABC or CBS they are telling you what they want you to hear and their bias is there even if they think they are unbiased. I haven’t watched a national news program in it’s entirety in about twelve or thirteen years. Local news only gets watched when the weather is bad, otherwise there is no point because they are only going to sensationalize the items that they think will give them ratings and the things that are important to me will be ignored.

    1. Hey Sara. 🙂

      That’s just the thing. Even though you have a lot of unreliable sources on the internet, you have A LOT OF SOURCES on the internet. You can even go directly to the AP if you like.

      Also, if you follow someone and find them to be reputable, you can bookmark them as one of your go-to sources for when things happen. Basically, you can roll-your-own news team, with specialists in Sports, Politics, etc.

      A lot of people are tired of the bias. I’d think that even MORE would be tired of the sensationalism. Ultimately, the best deal is to have CHOICES so that you can decide for yourself where you’d like to get your information instead of having someone decide *for* you because they’re the only game in town.

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