Monday, October 05, 2009

The Media's Digging its Own Grave

The important thing for people to remember is that, when the old dogs (like the Globe) start to die off, they dug their own graves. Bloggers didn't and don't want to see these institutions go, we've even tried to warn them before, but newspapers just don't want to listen. Joan Vennochi is just the most recent example.

Here's what I had to say over at Blue Mass Group, starting with a quote from Christopher.
There seems to be a disconnect that leads to the media actually acting contrary to their own self-interest, assuming that interest is selling papers/getting ratings.

Dinosauritus. They had a system that worked for generations. Owning a newspaper was like owning gold, it was gauranteed profits, year in and year out, no matter recession or boom years or something in between.

They were the only game in town and, after newspapers eating each other year after year, there was very little competition. Therefore, they could not only have those gauranteed profits, but cut, cut, cut the newsroom to get even bigger profits -- there was little competition in town for people to turn to when the quality dropped.

This new-fangled thing came along called the internet and not only challenged their volume of readers, but worse yet, hit them on their bottom line through operations like Craigslist, instantly wiping away 20% of their bottom line.

The thing is, they could have been the Craigslist, they could have been the blogosphere, but the dinosaurs at top liked their business model and didn't think anything could challenge it until it was very quickly gone. With 20% of their profits wiped out, they were subject to the whims of the economy at precisely the time the economy went caplut -- and after years and years of cutting content to increase profits, losing readers.

Did I mention the gigantic debt most papers took on as they gobbled each other up? The NYT bought the Globe for a billion dollars in the 90s -- and is having trouble giving it away at $20 million now. That debt adds up -- and a lot of newspapers just don't have the money to pay it. They bought newspapers at overvalued prices and the profit margins of the paper just couldn't afford the debt -- that's precisely what happened with the Chicago Tribune and others. The NYT denies that's what's happening with them, but the fact remains they took on (foolish) debt they couldn't afford to pay off.

I had a commenter in my previous blog boasting that I'm "NOT a journalist." I see that as a good thing -- it gives people like me much needed perspective that those in the industry lack. The industry's behavior has literally been bred - they weren't willing to be innovative when innovation would have saved their industry and now, instead of trying to do something, most are filling the part of Joan Vennochi, simply looking for scapegoats.

That's right, the papers still view blogs as the enemy. They fail to see that we're actually rooting for them to succeed. Our criticism is meant as constructive, but they view it as an attack. Most of us may not be professional journalists, but professional journalism (as we know it) has been the problem, not the answer. Ultimately, why journalists should be listening to the blogosphere is because we're the ones who pay the most attention to the news, as its reported. In other words, journalists should be listening to bloggers closely because we're their biggest costumers. If even we're not buying, who else will?

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