Something’s wrong with the canary

“The Tribune Company owns businesses (which) make money by placing ads in between (broadcast) or alongside (print) scarce content. That model, I’m afraid, is dying for two reasons. One, content isn’t scarce anymore. Two, advertisers have other, cheaper ways of reaching the people formerly known as the audience. I’m not sure there’s any form of government help that can protect traditional media from that.” — Terry Heaton on Tribune bankruptcy

If you think Mr. Heaton is wrong on either point, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

And this from Clay Shirky, guest blogging at Boing Boing:

“This change has been more like seeing oncoming glaciers ten miles off, and then deciding not to move.”

5 thoughts on “Something’s wrong with the canary

  1. “…the newspapers and radio stations gave people a central place to find their information, creating jobs at the same time. I have never, to this moment, seen a revenue-producing business model for web-delivered information.”
    I’ll leave the question of whether “a central place to find their information” is a good thing for another day. As for “revenue-producing business model for web-delivered information,” how about the Huffington Post? I’d guess Drudge makes a little money. Perhaps I misunderstood your point.
    Much of your comment seemed predicated on the idea of advertising as we have come to know it over the last half-century (“cost per thousand” “frequency and reach”). I’m not sure that’s where we’re headed. Most advertising is irrelevant to the listener/viewer. Anyone with a Tivo skips ads and music radio stations have touted “commercial free” music blocks. Yes, there must be a business model but it doesn’t have to look like the old one.
    “Most blogs are as interesting as an unlocked diary sitting on a desk — very interesting if you know the person, but of fading interest after about 5 minutes if you don’t.”
    So, you’re saying all these millions of blogs are being read only by the friends of the authors. Huh.
    “I am not denying the potential for the Internet, but I think it is slowly (rapidly) eating away at an industry, without replacing the jobs.”
    This just in! Dale Forbes see potential for the Internet. Just kidding.
    As for replacing jobs… the Internet is creating lots of jobs. It’s just not creating the same jobs.
    “All the citizen journalists can pass on is rumors and wild speculations at the scene of something like, say, 9/11.”
    I can’t tell if you’re serious our not. We don’t get “rumors and wild speculation” on radio and TV? Really?
    “I just hope we don’t get so excited about this “cool” way to cover events and offer information and forget to make it functional.”
    So, you’re suggesting the Internet is a cool but not-quite-functional way to report news. Huh.
    Well, we both have front row seats, so we can watch this unfold and see what happens.

  2. Well said, Dale.
    And Steve, you really have me thinking about this 8-hours-a-day local web coverage deal. Now — do Sam Bushman, Joan at Chez Monet, and Tasir at Coffee Zone have enough ad bucks to sustain me in the local-radio-star lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed?…hmmmmm…

  3. I embrace the new technology and the new ways of informing people. The problem: the newspapers and radio stations gave people a central place to find their information, creating jobs at the same time. I have never, to this moment, seen a revenue-producing business model for web-delivered information. I think Chuck Zimmerman is doing real well. Google was making billions for a while there. And, there are other isolated examples. But, it’s mostly folks sitting in their bedroom or office sharing their thoughts, but not necessarily generating income. Most blogs are as interesting as an unlocked diary sitting on a desk — very interesting if you know the person, but of fading interest after about 5 minutes if you don’t.
    Advertising costs are much lower for those putting their message on blogs, personal websites, etc., but they are also reaching a much, much smaller group. It’s a good thing you can target that ad effort more closely, bad that you have to spread the bucks to reach enough potential customers. “Frequency and reach” is an important consideration, i.e., how many people hear my message and how often (well, that would be reach and frequency). I’m not sure those blogs and websites are as good a deal for the advertiser as we think when it comes to cost per thousand.
    I am not denying the potential for the Internet, but I think it is slowly (rapidly) eating away at an industry, without replacing the jobs. Most news consumers won’t seek out a dozen different sources to get their information — heck, most people got their news from just one television and one radio station. Only a few people bought more than one paper in multiple-paper towns.
    A few weeks ago you copied a blog in which the author suggested maintstream media would/could eventually become inconsequential in the coverage of breaking news. I remember thinking — yeah, citizen journalists will offer early pictures as a form of coverage, but emergency responders like police won’t answer questions from those citizen journalists. The first thing the cops ask is, “Who (what established media organization) are you with?” All the citizen journalists can pass on is rumors and wild speculations at the scene of something like, say, 9/11. It’s enough of a zoo when the standard media is there. They’re not going to deal with mobs of people shouting questions, at least not any more than they do now.
    If 350 citizen journalists show up to cover the next Jefferson City city council meeting, well, that opens a whole new can of worms.
    It’s an uncertain time for journalists, but an exciting and challenging one as well. I just hope we don’t get so excited about this “cool” way to cover events and offer information and forget to make it functional. “Cool” and “new” don’t put beans on the table. However, I also admit that I was the guy 4-5 years ago asking if there was a way I could take my laptop to the University of Wisconsin news conferences and stream it live to our stations so they could hear Barry Alvarez. It wasn’t feasible then, but it is now.
    By the way, I enjoyed the Madison pictures from Bob. It’s 70 down here with a little rain on the way. I know it means I’m insane, but this Florida resident misses the snow. Now, I was never real big on shoveling the stuff…

  4. “Do you know how the City and County are getting along about our ambulance issue? Are you aware of how Jefferson City Cantorum began?”
    Warren:
    I think local content IS important and kudos to stations that still provide that coverage.
    Would you say it truly “local’ content makes up 15% of any radio station?
    Perhaps the ‘money’ question is can a radio station make it doing ONLY local content? Can that pull enough audience to be attractive to advertisers? I honestly don’t know.
    One more question for you?
    If you spent 8 hours a day covering local, Jeff City news and events and put all that content on a blog, could you provide more/better coverage than the best local radio or TV station? I didn’t say reach more people… I said provide better coverage.
    You wouldn’t have to get anything like the same rates because your overhead would be a tiny fraction of any radio station.
    I think Mr. Shirky (above) was telling us not to stand still with the glacier almost on us.

  5. Interesting stuff here Steve. I agree with much of what the gentleman says about “scarce” content, ie “national” content. But local? I don’t know. Do you know how the City and County are getting along about our ambulance issue? Are you aware of how Jefferson City Cantorum began? These aren’t big issues to be sure, but neither are our ad rates to businesses in Jefferson City. I just hope and pray that local content means something to local advertisers, and that I can outlast an industry that places increasing value on “national” content. I don’t care (and neither does Bob’s Hardware on Mainstreet)how many listeners/viewers/webcast hitters we have in Singapore…just how many we have in JCMO.
    Thanks for the cool blog. Let’s do lunch sometime and figure it all out.
    Warren

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