(This is the post that disappeared. My mistake.)
Sobering news – my company is laying off 600 people. And I’m one of them.
I volunteered to take a buyout because I just can’t take it anymore.
No, not the dwindling prospects for a long career in the print business (and no, not the endless assignments to follow celebrities around the city); but the company’s and the industry’s extraordinarily high faith in the Internet as the only route to profits.
Look. I get it. Advertisers are pulling back and trying to refocus their efforts on blogs and websites. Even The Christian Science Monitor is shredding its daily print edition. Isn’t that a sign that the proverbial sky is falling?
Actually, no. This rush to the ‘net for real news (not celebrity news) will not last forever (maybe 5 more years) and I’m sure of it. What the publishing industry needs to do now is focus on re-creating a product that held intrinsic value, and finding and re-acclimating their core readership instead of alienating those people by focusing on 24-7 celebrity coverage (this is for you, Associated Press).
Because if you look deeply, you’ll see that the “advertising on blogs” idea is a fad that’s a) predicated on nothing but fear, eschewing real numbers and profits (pretty much exactly like our current stock market volatility) and b) paradoxically both way overdue and incoherently rushed.
The titans of media who oversee the biggest conglomerates are about 10 years late and $2,000 short, with regard to putting the bulk of their product online (this should have happened circa 1998), and monetizing said online product ($20 for 1,000 impressions? Are you insane? Why not give it away?)
Too afraid to take risks on the ‘net when it was young, newspapers and magazines instead had to follow a trail blazed by seedy amateur writers flocking to free websites peddling their over-leveraged, snarky opinions. But the corporate journalists could never be that bold! It was a race they were doomed to lose.
Similar short-sightedness and lack of creativity is why those same companies will never reap the same revenue online as they have with their print products. They have consistently refused to charge what it’s worth for advertisers to their web magazines AND as a result, out of precedent, they’ll never be able to charge what it’s really worth for advertisers to their web magazines. They have also dumbed-down their product.
Online readers are not willing to knowingly “be advertised to” in the sort of data-mining, giving up their address and income information to a company. This is a different breed of “consumer.” This is the type of “consumer” who hates that label. For that reason, and more, you simply can’t account for readers online the way you can with a tangible magazine or newspaper, and once advertisers realize nobody clicks on their ads anyway, they will pull back from the Internet as well.
And at a certain point, our economy might get so bad that people will stop paying for wireless and cable, which will be the final death blow to television (BTW, people aren’t completely thrilled about the government mandating that they get an DTV if they want to ever watch tv again).
The Internet is a great tool. It should not be the future of journalism (There are still too many questions and variables)…but…
So, why is print still dead? Because nobody is offering anything of substance!
People enjoyed watching Britney Spears slowly almost kill herself over and over and over again for a while. They enjoyed watching it on the Internet, and truthfully, that’s the right place for such a story. There is no reason the AP should have hired 20 reporters to follow her around Hollywood, to file news wires to send to reputable news agencies on her downward spiral. Ick.
When our country enters the Depression 2.0, people will actually start to crave real news again. I do believe there is a way to put real news on the Internet without sacrificing its believability at the altar of the blogosphere, but we’re not there yet. We’re not nearly there.
At the point that we’ll need real news again, all the media agencies will be suffering from a dearth of cash, as well as talent. They will have laid off all of the intelligent, thoughtful, analytical reporters in exchange for cheap college grads ready and willing to give up their personal lives for a byline, but with nothing of value to offer an organization. You won’t be able to adequately report on anything of substance.
This is why readers have been slowly leaving print for the past 10 years or more! But big media companies don’t get it. Their relentless pursuit of the bottom-of-the-barrel readership (opportunistic, as it is) has alienated the only dedicated loyal readers they had.
Those “professional readers” if you will allow me that much, are now getting their news in the form of direct analysis from research agencies and foreign news services. They know that the American public is being led into an information bubble, and they don’t want to take it anymore.
We’re rapidly entering a period in which the 4th Estate will cease to exist. Everyone’s blaming the Internet. But it’s not their fault. Instead, newspapers and magazines attempted to compete with the internet, entering a race with bloggers which by definition could not be won except by giving up their self-worth. They stopped breaking news. They stopped caring about expertise. They underestimated their consumers.
And that is why print is dead.