Confidently Facing Chaos

Here’s the latest in my ongoing series of essays, Local Media in a Postmodern World.


One of the most difficult challenges I hear for local media companies is overcoming the appearance of chaos in the reinvention process. More than anything else, this prevents people from navigating the really disruptive waters and choosing instead to stay with what they know. This despite considerable evidence that mass media’s business model is going the way of the video rental store.

To the ordered mind, anything smacking of serious change is chaotic, but it can be foolish to try anything that attempts to go above, around or beneath it. We need the skill and ability to move THROUGH chaos to find our way to lasting prosperity in the new era. That’s what this essay is all about.

Meanwhile, the headline of Brian Stelter’s New York Times report on the 2013 version of the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “State of the News Media” report says it all: Local TV News Is Following Print’s Path, Study Says.

Those who follow my work will find none of this to be “new.” However, I’m saddened by this year’s report, because I’m afraid we’re getting to the point where even deliberate attempts to steer a different course will only have limited success.

The report illuminates a few important trends:

  • Audiences of local TV news continue to shrink — There is nothing on the horizon, no new concept in local TV news that will bring back those who’ve left. None. So unless there is a major blue sky (and blank slate) reinvention project ahead, local TV — despite an occasional good report, such as advertisers still preferring TV — there is no future.
  • Where programs have changed since 2005, they’ve gone for more weather, traffic, and sports. Live reports have replaced stories, and audiences are beginning to notice. This is accelerating the flight from local TV news.
  • People increasingly get news from their friends and then proceed to learn more.

I strongly encourage you to read the entire PEW report. It’s a terrific benchmark of where we’re at from both revenue and audience perspectives.

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