Mainstream Media Meltdown — by the numbers

Chris Anderson — he of “The Long Tail” fame — posts numbers that paint a very real picture of what’s happening in the mainstream media space. You’ll want to read this.

He writes that while TV viewing is up overall, viewing continues to be fragmented. This renders irrelevant all those nice press releases from Nielsen touting a growing marketplace. I’ve written about this before, but Chris offers a wonderful graph:

Draw the trendline, folks. I know I sound like a broken record (or fingernails on a chalkboard), but mass media is headed for a place that’ll result in a whole lot of good people getting hurt. The executives who run these companies simply MUST get their heads out of the sand and proactively address the fundamental issue of audience loss. As I’ve said a million times, revenue ain’t the problem; audience is the problem. Fix the problem!


  1. terry, what would you suggest executives do in turning around the loss of audience? with so many programming options on so many channels, with tivo and the like changing viewing habits, with the internet capturing former passive eyes, how should an executive respond?

  2. Fixing the audience problem begins with understanding where they’ve gone and then creating strategies to meet their needs there instead of trying to drag everybody back to something they’ve already abandoned.

    Of course, it might also be helpful to reinvent what we’re doing on-the-air, which would also suggest we’ve figured out that they don’t give a crap about what we’re currently doing.

    I could tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you. 🙂

  3. well, to anyone that isn’t a hound for “the way it is” and can embrace change, sure, you’re spot on. but that doesn’t seem to describe these executive types.

    but back to the question of where we’ve gone (you see, i’m the audience, not a media prof). try to forget new media for a moment… doesn’t the on-demand and channel explosion of cable tv change things in and of itself? with the advent of RSS, my intake of information has dramatically increased from a few sites to many. can’t tv execs learn from where the web is heading by monetizing chunks of information/entertainment in different ways?

    that brought new media back into the conversation… so what do you think of the model? and don’t give up too much. i don’t need a heaton bullet headed my way 😉

  4. I’m not sure “the on-demand and channel explosion of cable tv” changes anything; it just continues the downward trend.

    I tried to address new revenue models in The Remarkable Opportunities of Unbundled Media, but this is all “far out there” to most TV executives.

    Current TV? It has some cool aspects but it’s got a lot growing to do. I’m not sure how sustainable their model is, and I’ve heard squat about revenues. As to what I think of it, let’s just say that I think they would’ve been better off with a host of paid VJs instead of counting so much on input from independents. Ultimately, that’s a great model, but I think it’s too early in the game. We’ll see.

  5. i guess i’m equating “changing everything” with “the downward trend” in that the demise of passive tv consumption is a positive notion. i’d be very surprised to learn that TV consumption, in terms of average time spent watching per day, has dropped at all over the last ten years. it seems that it’s only broadened out across new channels, with new variables in play.

    regarding revenue models, i just read your essay. spot on. reminds me of an essay i wrote a few months back called, “Yahoo! The Busines of Change”. you get much more into the specifics of an unbundled media model, while i focused on the buisness level approach to producing ‘open’ and ‘closed’ experiences. i’d actually equate that, on some level, with bundled and unbundled media, as closed experiences are bundled with traditional value propositions (oPhoto) and open experiences are unbundled, with endless possibilities for consumption and usefulness (flickr).

    in the end, if companies/executives refuse to recognize that products are passé, while services to >i>create products are in style, well, there are going to be a lot of people out of cozy corner office jobs.

    i agree with your take on, although… if they have the proper bankroll and the google revenue model works, they’ll change the concept of tv *big time* it’s funny, i feel like i’m witnessing the second iteration of mtv with them… and mtv returned to a closed, bundled, media experience.

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