Last week at ad:tech San Francisco there was a lot of talk about media and the impact that blogs and social media are having on traditional news. I’m not a news expert, and have never worked in traditional news, but I think that traditional media can learn from how other industries adapted to significant shifts in the landscape.
While all forms of traditional media – from print to radio to tv news – seem to be struggling, the key question that needs to be asked is How do we reinvent ourselves to stay relevant?
Here are a few examples of how new and old paradigms of business have co-existed by adapting.
Blogs are like WalMart
Remember when WalMart started to grow and how communities reacted? Some communities tried to keep WalMart out, for fear that their local businesses would be destroyed. The reality is that WalMart did put a lot of companies out of business – both retailers and suppliers. Businesses that survived adapted their model and built their business around a strong value proposition. They provided something that was more important than just price, or they died. Despite the success of WalMart there are still new retail businesses starting every day. They differentiate themselves on quality, selection, location, convenience, etc and thrive and grow despite WalMart.
Blogs are the WalMart of the media world. They create content that people like for a lower price. Most bloggers publish as a labor of love – they don’t need a huge paycheck. Big blog publications have a different cost structure than traditional media, so they can generate profits from online display ads (a cost structure that won’t work for most traditional media).
In order for traditional media to survive the content revolution (where everyone is a content creator), they have to adapt their strategy to focus on their core value proposition – investigative journalism.
Most bloggers (not all) don’t do a lot of primary research. They actually build their stories on stats, facts and research from traditional media and use it as a source for their articles. Traditional media should be The Resource for investigative journalism – a service that is needed for bloggers to exist.
I have a friend who is a TV news producer. To “create” the news producers do research. They check facts. They look up stats. They get multi-media from different sources, or create it themselves. They go out and interview a variety of people. They investigate and report. These core competencies of traditional media must be heightened to create a clear value proposition.
Video Killed the Radio Star
Actually, it didn’t. When TV and video came along, radio didn’t die – it adapted. Now I wasn’t around at the time, but if you look at the evolution of radio, prior to mass adoption of TV radio was a platform for both music and story-telling entertainment. Families would gather around the radio and listen to stories for entertainment.
Then TV came along. Radio wasn’t really the best medium for story-telling type entertainment – TV was. So, TV focused on fictional story-telling entertainment and radio focused on music. Radio adapted the content to focus on content areas where it could win – music, call-in talk shows, etc.
Both TV and radio continue to exist but with different content and in different use cases.
So What Now?
There are some traditional media sites that have innovative views about how they can adapt.
Chris Graves at the Cincinnati Enquirer launched a program called LOL: Locals on Living . LOL creates content for both the web and print editions, and it clearly changes the cost structure for the enquirer (no full time writers creating content). Clicking on the blogs opened 2 highly annoying ad pop-up windows, however as the model evolves perhaps there will be opportunities to find different revenue streams. It launched last July and has expanded to integrate local bloggers from lifestyle content to Sports Content (see SportsTalkCentral). The program is beginning to dip into news/business with the integration of BuildingCincinnati, which is featured both on our business and news page. They currently integrate 17 bloggers on the site.
At ad:tech Chris Anderson, EIC of Wired shared information about how Tablets can provide new opportunities for publishers. By leveraging interactivity and the tablet technology, publishers may have the opportunity to charge for content vs. the current web model where everything is free. It will be interesting to see if this plays out.
What do you think?
How can news sites continue to thrive? Quality investigative journalism is important for our society, but traditional media outlets are struggling with their business models. How can they reinvent themselves? Have you seen other examples of this?