Friday, November 16, 2007

Media Facts of Life

FCC Chief Kevin Martin wants to relax the media cross-ownership rules in the 20 largest cities in the US to give struggling print outlets a better chance for survival. Hmmm…let’s think about this together: The Internet has been around for a while now, at least since Al Gore invented it, and some (struggling) newspaper operations are just now getting on board?

See the reality is that the print guys that aren’t making it right now generally haven’t made the switch to online editions. I know, I know, that’s hard to believe, especially from an AM Radio guy like me. Don’t I know that AM is dying, FM is swooning, and Satellite Radio is the wave of the future? Perhaps.

The AM stations that are dying are the one’s the big conglomerates ran into the ground the last 20-years, killing local content, canning live announcers in favor of voice-tracking, and discovering they could run twice as many :30-second spots in the same time it took to run a :60-second commercial. What these Media Mensa’s failed to grasp was that people like listening to people, not machines, that you can only tell half as much of your story in a :30 as a :60, and as soon as advertisers figured out they were no longer getting their money’s worth from these dumbed-down media installations, they took their business elsewhere.

Oh, and Radio listening was also competing with TV, Cable, the Internet with its downloads to iPod’s, movies, DVD’s and living life with media that allows multi-tasking without sacrificing too many brain cells. Fortunately, Radio still allows you to listen while you work; unfortunately, too much of the content is just not listenable much these days.

Back to the Papers. There is a fundamental problem with the FCC cutting these losers slack, when the one’s that were on the ball figured out where information media was going early on: On Line.

I say let the dinosaurs die.

Soon, there will no longer be a generation around who longs for the tactile satisfaction of crumpled newsprint, and the tell-tale smudges of fresh ink on fingertips.

I have a wonderful photograph of my Grandfather, George W. Clanton, standing in the front yard of his home, reading the evening paper after work. I am much like him in that regard:
I still love to thumb through each page, reading the daily paper cover-to-cover.

The demise of the afternoon papers in Houston has taken that pleasure away. Now, you read it in the morning, after the news has been written, edited, proofed, and printed the night before. By the time the distributor lobs the morning edition onto my driveway, the news is nearly 12-hours old.

My son loves to read the paper, too, but he’s just as happy getting the latest news from the internet. I expect that my grandchildren will never have an appreciation for reading news “hot off the presses.”

As these generations fade away, so, too, will the daily print media business for the most part. And not even bending the rules of media cross-ownership can alter the fact that the audience is gradually going away.

1 comment:

frost said...

Things may have changed in the last couple years (since I was managing a bunch of radio stations), but 30-second commercials were costing 80% of a one minute spot; ten second spots were 50 or 60%.
Also, a guy named Rush Limbaugh was largely responsible for saving the AM dial.
Just wanted to set the record straight, as most newspaper circulation continue to drop, and drop some more...