Posts Tagged ‘digital’

You probably already heard the news, the Trib is in Chapter 11.

This comes on the heels of the news that newspapers lost 18% in Q3, the worst drop on record.  You probably heard that too.

These numbers and their related news seem so benign when we’ve spent the last 3 months talking about hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars.  While the financial and auto companies falter quickly, the advertising based business parasites who live off those big advertising clients are following into the grave.

Interactive companies will survive, print media, probably not.  Will it completely fail?  No.  Print will become basic arbitrage plays.  Bottom of the barrel, low profit margin businesses.  They live off the laggard customers who by choice or circumstance stay in the old way of doing things.  This has been the fate of many industry segments that once were the king but never quite die off.  (Think of Amtrak, dial up ISPs, land line phones, most radio networks, music stores,

Having trouble believing it’s happening?

Consider these stories:

TV Guide magazine sold for 1 dollar, only 9 years ago it was worth 9.2 billion.

Maxim Magazine, once king of men’s magazine, had $28 million in EBITA in 2007, and this year was only $8 million

PC Magazine, a 27 year old publication, put a stake in print last month,admitting 2009 in print would have been at a loss

… Christian Science Monitor all digital, Men’s Vogue Folded into Vogue… and so on.

Print Yellow Pages are heading the same way.

This probably isn’t news to anyone reading this blog.  Perhaps the numbers are surprising or the speed at which it is happening makes you wonder.

Many consultants and veterans want to paint a rosy picture and claim there are opportunities and silver linings (usually because they depend on this delusion to pay their own bills).  There is no stop gap solution for straight print companies nor anyone that maintains homages to that glorious past.

These businesses aren’t just losing ground with readers, they aren’t making money any more – not just making less money, they are LOSING money.  There’s no vintage business here.  No retro glory days thing.  No way to suck it dry before it dies.

Why?  There’s no money to support this old ecology.  New media makes WAY LESS profit than print and print no longer provides an on ramp for digital users.  You aren’t trading ad dollar for ad dollar, reader for user.  I’ve talked about it before.  The issue is that new media has data behind it and the data destroys a lot of the promised pitches of the past.  The biggest failed promise was that “impressions” equal sales.  They don’t.  They didn’t in print and they don’t online.

Clicks and transactions.  That’s what people are counting and most sites produce less than a .5% Click Through Rate on those impressions.  It’s not uplifting and media buyers can’t stand to see their budgets flushing down the drain with non-transactional impressions.

The other promise that fails under data analysis is demographics/audience composition.  Magazines used to get to claim they were “women’s” or “men’s” and 18-34 year olds (people with money! and time!) and agencies and advertisers sort of believe them (there was no data to refute!).  Now you have data that says a “women’s site” is luckily to be 65% women.  No advertiser who sells a woman’s only product wants to blow cash on 35% male audience.  So they don’t.  They lower the price they are willing to pay or force you to cut the inventory way down.

There are 1400 or so magazines and maybe a couple of 100 newspapers.  There are 20,000 websites (at least) that are taking ad dollars from those advertisers who used to spend their money in newspapers.  There are at least 30 large classified sites, 100s of travel sites, 1000s of local information sites that take all the other print revenue.  Point is, the average campaign size for any online publisher is MUCH LOWER than for the print equivalents.  There’s an obvious spreading of the wealth.

And to put it all together… writing, filming, and creating good content is not any cheaper.  (and no, user generated content doesn’t count yet because it’s quality still sucks for the most part).

Spreading less high margin wealth means the old model is dead.  It died a long time ago, we’re just rolling in the bodies now.

Well, dude, what’s the answer?  how do we save it?

We don’t. We can’t.

Think about it.  Look at the election coverage.  Did you read a paper to get results? get your facts? listen to the candidates? get a verified opinion?

Probably not.

Did campaigns blow a wad of money on print ads? no.

The election killed whatever life was left in print.  CNN’s coverage literally choked its last breath.  Obama’s campaign made sure that you’re going to go direct to the source online.

So what should old skool media companies do?

Other stuff.  Maintaining any substantial competence in print operations or print audience development is a waste.  Get programmers and interactive designers on staff now.

Sponsor open source projects.

Buy some cheap blogs.

Experiment with mashups.

Copy CNN.

Try everything you can.  The whole bit is in transition.

Buy transactional businesses.

Learn about Video Games and Social Networks and Second Life.

Hell, I don’t know, and no one else does.

Just get crackin.

or hop on board an Amtrak train with your local paper with your am radio (they need all the customers they can get).

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Actually this is a provocative title to get parents and teachers to read online crap. Kinda ironical, don’t you think… it is supposed to sound like concerns from worried parents.

One brain scientist at UCLA, Gary Small, a psychiatrist, argues that daily exposure to digital technologies can alter how the brain works. “Brain scientist” does not equate to brainy scientist!

While violent and porn have received a lot of public attention, the current jive goes well beyond concern and elicits fear. Media hawking ‘scientists’ purport that the wired world may be changing the way we read, learn and interact with each other. Dah…

Dr. Small claims that brain circuits involved in face-to-face contact can become weaker due to the time and exposure to digital media. Of course he offers no data and the directionality of the changes is impossible to determine if they empirically exist at all. …did the person select a digital world because of his or her brain or did the digital world change the brain by being less emotive, less rewarded by being around people?

Small says the effect is strongest in so-called digital natives, for now. It is the teenagers and 20s and 30 year olds who have been “digitally hard-wired since toddlerhood.” [Is pop-science the same as junk science?]

More than 2,000 years ago, Socrates warned about a different information revolution. He knew learning was important. Yet, he lectured that the rise of the written word was a more artificial way of learning than the oral tradition. More recently, television sparked concerns, then movies, then video games that would make our precious youth more violent or passive and interfere with their education. It even was rumored that TV watching interfered with their sight, fantasy development and ability to do good in school. YIKES!

There isn’t an open-and-shut case that digital technology is changing brain circuitry in any way different from an athlete’s brain or a student’s brain changes due to plasticity… those things a person does change the neural work paths of the brain so that the person doesn’t have to relearn everything they did yesterday all over again when they do it today.

Not enough scientists and non-scientists are skeptical of digital fear mongering. It appears to be a way for doctors to get copy in online and print media. I got some articles off the web on this…. There is little to disprove or prove the digital fear speculation.

Dr. Robert Kurzban, a University of Pennsylvania scientist states the obvious: he says that neurobiology is complex and incomplete and there is still have a lot to learn about how a person’s experiences affect the way the brain is wired to deal with any interaction including social or digital ones. They are separate issues: neurological wiring AND social interaction.

It appears to many in education and science that social interaction is a reinforcer just like food and water. Deprivation and overload appear to work in a similar fashion as anyone who has ever been in jail or from a large family will attest. Montessori educators have practiced a version of education and development that maintains that each student gets just what they need when they are ready to process it and there is not an absolute course on when, where and if that is going to happen or should happen.

But anything we do changes the brain due to plasticity. Even Googling. Some scientists suggest the brain actually benefits from Internet use which is equally silly as to claim that the brain is harmed by all things digital.

The developing brain builds pathways as learning occurs that gradually allows for more sophisticated processing. This is true of car mechanics and interpretive dance. It is also true for learning scripture whether it is based on Buddha, Mohamed, Christ or Jim Jones. It is all the same to the brain. Early on, “stuff” that isn’t used gets sloughed off in a pairing of dendrites and neural wax that keeps the brain working efficiently. Over time the 100 billion neurons with their 100,000 connections each come to grips with the environment, internal and external.

Children do more reading earlier online rather than Dick and Jane books at school. There is more and greater variability online than even seasoned educators can grasp. All and all, some parents can’t absorb or rationalize it. Yes, games are played to a frenzy. Yes, there is stuff out there that makes a sailor blush. No one knows how it will all turn out. There is also a bit of “Dr. Suez was good enough for me! Why do you have to be online all the time reading about arbitrage and the credit crunch or the net worth of Hollywood’s stars under 21 on Yahoo?”

For my 20 cents we shouldn’t have such a narrow view of children, humans or animals to rely on some aspect causing a great hole or scar in their behavior or man’s treatment of others. That flag is already waved by organized religion. They have a lock on it except for what is being played out digitally in games. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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