We are bombarded every day with the news of the death of newspapers and other traditional media thanks to the killer effect of the rise of social media. Quite frankly, it’s not the truth, and hearing it is getting a little tiresome and repetitive.
Sure, where there’s smoke there’s fire, as they say. There is certainly evidence that the decline in newspaper and magazine advertising revenues corresponds with an increasing ad spend in social media.
Looking at it strictly from a first-world perspective, yes, technologies and behaviours like blogging, social media, the iPhone and iPad are permanently changing the way we consume media. However, our newspapers’ (mainly) Australian bosses are not stupid (truly – I have worked with some of them). They will change their business models to reflect the new paradigm. They will buy, they will merge, they will purge. One sure thing is that the large newspapers, and other traditional media, have been experimenting with new business models for some time. They will crack it eventually, even if it means hiring in some young guns to help change the paradigm (again, this has started already).
In fact, the ‘old’ mainstream media have already started to get more social (see Stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz for examples), while social media are becoming more mainstream (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). I believe that in the end these media will blend their technologies and start to look more similar – that is, until the next revolution comes along. What’s after social media? When all media is ‘social’? What’s the next thing? Is it media collaboration? Or co-opetition? I’m not sure yet, but we are working on it.
One prediction I will make confidently is that more journalists will be required to embrace the online world; many leading journalists already use social media for research and story leads, blog regularly themselves and see these things as natural extensions of the craft. Those that don’t embrace it will be left behind – at least in the developed world.
Slightly less relevant but important in terms of world-wide change: looking purely at population statistics in less developed countries, the newspapers (outdoor advertising and radio) are there to stay for a long time yet, and social media is really. . . well, it’s getting social around a water pump, or the community clinic or at local shebeen (pub).
Now where is that iPad so that I can read the news and check out my fave technology mag and the new Lee Child novel!
As you may have guessed, I don’t believe traditional media will die or that social media will take over the world, but the technologies will be shared and the process will sort out the wheat from the chaff in developed markets. There will be room only for those that can attract revenue and deliver relevant content (and fast). Co-opetition may be the new strategy for media companies.