The negative of positive industry stories

I’ve been a professional observer of new media for many years now, and I’ve tried to maintain distance while watching the disruptive innovations of Media 2.0. If there is one predictable absolute in all this, it is that incumbent businesses will do anything to deny the disruption before doing something to join it.

This is why I take the position of inevitability with regards to collapsing hegemonies and try not to pay much attention to “evidence” that seems to suggest otherwise. Such evidence is usually spin, but I find myself having to respond when people ask, “What about this?” There are two examples of this today.

One is a report by Lexis Nexis that consumers turn to mainstream media when they want information about urgent matters rather than blogs, podcasts or Web-only publications.

The report–based on a survey of more than 1,500 U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 64–found that television and radio were still the most popular choice for news about matters such as hurricanes or disease outbreaks. Half of the respondents said they would turn to network TV for such news, while 42 percent chose radio, 37 percent would read daily local newspapers or watch cable news or business networks, and 25 percent said they would turn to Web sites of print publications and broadcast stations. But just 6 percent said they would turn to social media, including user groups, blogs and chat rooms.

Lexis Nexis, which sells access to stories from traditional media outlets, (ED: Emphasis mine. Note also that Lexis Nexis is a major Media 1.0 player) also reported that 52 percent of respondents said they will continue to mostly rely on traditional news sources in the future, while just 13 percent said they will rely on emerging media.

While traditional media companies are rightly touting this as a validation of their models, the point is missed that Media 2.0 cannot be measured using Media 1.0 logic. It isn’t and never will be an “all or nothing” thing, for both the old and the new will be with us. In fact, I’ve argued many times that the new needs the old and that there is a symbiotic relationship that most new media observers tend to overlook.

Steve Rubel writes of this study, “Duh. Of course consumers skip blogs when big news breaks.”

In other breaking news today, water was declared a liquid and grass green. What a bogus survey. To me this screams “We don’t get the Long Tail.”

Blogs aren’t about big breaking news stories. They’re about news in thousands of niches that are too small for the big boys to cover. When will people get it? Surveys like this are just silly. Big media and micro media are complementary, not competitive. Gee Willikers.

So again, this report offers nothing new in my mind and certainly nothing to invalidate the disruption, for it is about business, not consumer choices.

The second piece of “evidence” is a fawning puff piece in Advertising Age by Claire Atkinson called “Comeback Trail: Broadcast TV Storms Into Fall.” Firstly, let me get this out of the way: this article is entirely an opinion piece and should, in my opinion, be labeled as such. It is so slanted in favor of broadcasting that it’s vertical, and these kinds of pieces do nothing to address the disruptions — which Ms. Atkinson acknowledges — that are eating away at the very foundation of the industry.

The piece looks at the new fall season and touts ratings and revenue upticks to make the case that broadcasting is making a comeback. This is a terribly dangerous position to take, especially for local broadcasters. It helps sell advertising (that is, after all, what AdAge is all about), but it’s an elaborate form of denial. Ms. Atkinson begins the piece with her conclusions:

Audiences have shown up in droves for the start of the fall season; 30-second-spot prices are reaching some of the highest levels of all time; marketers are throwing more money at the medium; and Wall Street is betting on CBS over cable stronghold Viacom. Doesn’t sound much like a business in decline, does it?

Of course no one really thought broadcast was about to die, but the 800-pound gorilla in the media universe has had to weather numerous threats to its well-being and attendant inches of ink proclaiming its imminent demise. The first round of obits was written when its cable siblings started nipping at its audience with their “niche” network story. More recently there’s been the endless waves of new-media attacks that were meant to absorb potential viewers’ time and splinter broadcast audiences into little, difficult-to-monetize pieces.

She goes on to support these conclusions by citing week one numbers from the new season, very dicey predictors of future behavior or trends, as USAToday’s Gerald Levin wrote last week:
Early signs can be misleading. Well-promoted shows can attract curious channel surfers who then abandon them in later weeks — or even that same hour…

So the crucial test comes soon: “You expect a new show to drop 10 percent” in Week 2, says Starcom Media’s Sam Armando. “If it goes well below that, you raise an eyebrow.” CBS’ “The Class” dropped 19 percent for Monday’s second episode; “Studio 60” fell 12 percent…

Despite Nielsen’s recent report that viewers are watching more TV than ever, overall viewing levels declined 1 percent, thanks to a 9 percent drop for basic cable.

The new season is, I think, much better than the old, and I agree that the networks are fighting back. This can only help the industry, and we should be telling this story to advertisers with smiles on our faces.

But where these stories lead us into denial or keep us from moving into the Media 2.0 disruption, they are a net liability to an industry that must change or risk irrelevancy in the not-too-distant future.


  1. themanhattanchannel says

    the numbers in the lex/nex piece are somewhat misleading, add up the percentages and it totals 160%.


  2. themanhattanchannel says

    btw- 18–24 year olds were not part of the survey, why?

    might that have skewed the results a bit?

    sell your ads based on a healthy mix of young affluent buyers, but base your viewership loyalty numbers on a group that excludes them.


  3. This is such crap. I don’t OWN a TV — that’s how little regard I have for the idiot box — but if some MAJOR breaking news hit my area or possibly affected my life, of course I’d turn on the nearest one. For example, a good friend of mine practically lives on airplanes. If I’m sitting at my desk and get a breaking news e‑mail about a hijacking, of COURSE I’ll go find the nearest TV and turn it on. DUH. Same with weather — if the tornado sirens go off, I get my battery powered radio and tune it to the station that does a simulcast of the local TV weather assholes. Why? The power might go off, that’s why. So there you go — I’d have been counted in the “positive” numbers in that asinine survey for broadcast. How stupid.

  4. Terry,

    thanks for pointing out how the Ad Age piece is opinion…a disturbing trend (I guess we’d call it) is how (supposedly) trusted mainstream is now starting to push out more op-type stuff as articles/news stories rather than simply, obviously, stating their true intention. I’ve heard the strategy described as MSM’s desires to reach
    “the people” by giving them what they want…

    Odd thing is, people don’t mind reading each other’s opinions (on blogs) but I don’t think “people” are all that interested in reading only opinion from those who are considered professionals in MSM. There is, among “people” the sense that MSM is to give us something to discuss among ourselves–not that they’re supposed to start the discussion with their own opnions.

    It’s a totall mis-understanding of what blogging’s about, as well as a bad strategy on the part of MSM to more eyeballs (eyeballs=money)

  5. So “marketers” are throwing more money at the medium and 30-second spot prices are reaching some of the highest level of all time.…
    Are these the best and the brightest in the media world? Really? Of course the fall season is a great place to advertise. But what lunacy is allowing these “marketers” to be sold on higher rates and more dollars? Imagine the ROI if, as Jeff Jarvis suggests, these “experts” invested their client’s money in what television could become?

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