Brave new world

Is old media dead yet? With the Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post Intelligencer shuttering their print operations to move to an online-only model, it is clear that the news business is changing. With Hearst Corporation trying to sell or stop print production of the San Francisco Chronicle the writing which has been on the wall for 15+ years, will reach the second major city in North America.

I had a great lunch with Don Dodge about the legacy of print operations and the economics of manufacturing and distribution that will continue to hinder print based publications. Don has written about newspapers dying since 2006. The decline of the newspaper is the result of a rise in a decline of subscriptions, a decline in advertising and classified advertising, and a continued rise in production and distribution costs. This has coincided with the rise of alternative online sources for advertising, news, and classifieds. This is not a new phenomena.

After a fun, heated discussion with Richard Stursburg, EVP English Services of the CBC at Interactive Content Exchange (IN09), I started to realize the problem.

Future of the Medium, Part Two – The New Rules

 

Canadians are sometimes divided about the role of the state in the funding of media content and services. We do know however, that creative industries have become a large and growing economic engine. Most governments, especially in the prevailing economic conditions, recognize the value of job creation and investment.

 

We are already the 3rd largest developer of video games in the world. Yet it is still extremely difficult for interactive media companies to access the capital they need to grow in Canada. So as the manufacturing sector melts away, is this a new area for potential growth? Or are we too late?

 

Moderated by Alan Sawyer, Principal Consultant, Two Solitudes Consulting

 

Participants

  • Marilyn Burgess, President, Burgess Consultants
  • David Crow, Evangelist, Microsoft
  • Brady Gilchrist, President, Amodo Group
  • Richard Stursburg, EVP English Services, CBC

It was a fun conversation. It was very weird to be the only panelist on stage actively tweeting the conversation [1, 2, 3, 4, etc.]. It was amazing to hear comments along the lines of “Beautiful, highly produced, professional content can only be created by organizations like the CBC”.  The argument that Stursburg was making is that we shouldn’t like old media producers, broadcasters and newspapers go under because the future is unknown. We won’t have high quality content, whatever the hell that means, if we don’t provide government bailout moneys to support old Canadian media monopolies. I find the FUD factor incredibly high and un-nerving. It ignores competition, changing culture, and reinforces the wealth of an elite group. It plays to the fear of people. And it’s couched in the most absurd arguments around Canadian culture. That only existing broadcast players can fund, validate and manage Canadian content (only if we give them further tax credits and government support). It is the belief that broadcast media is the default media. That "high-production-quality” as determined by television is what the funding from an ISP tax should go towards. This completely ignores shifting media consumption behaviours of youth, it ignores the changing landscape of always one, always connected, multiple device content, and it ignores the increasing amount of data and news being created in multiple channels.

Video Killed the Radio Star

Sure the revenue models that will support emerging content business are still being defined. We’re starting to see the creation of distribution channels like games and XBox Live that can support artists and content producers. Sure, the middlemen hate the shift in power and wealth with emerging distribution models. “Aerosmith has reportedly earned more from Guitar Hero : Aerosmith than from any single album in the band’s history.” There are new models emerging for content financing, production and distribution. And they are probably different than the entrenched players that got rich off television and radio. The financing models are still emerging, but we have examples of movies, video games, advertising, etc.

What’s next?

“So this is what the old-growth forests tell us: there is going to be more content, not less; more information, more analysis, more precision, a wider range of niches covered. You can see the process happening already in most of the major sections of the paper: tech, politics, finance, sports.” – Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson gave a great talk at SxSW about the recent history of publishing and distribution of news. His vision includes a role for organizations like CBC and other traditional media outlets. The validation, accreditation, accountability and editing of the abundance of news and news sources. The goal is to build relevance, trust and accountability for news consumers. To be agile and embrace new distribution and business models.  To embrace new mediums, why do I need a Kindle when I have a laptop, an iPhone and a Blackberry. The question is how can old media embrace and monetize this brave new world.

“But it’s also bad news because it’s going to distract us from the long-term view; we’re going to spend so much time trying to figure out how to keep the old model on life support that we won’t be able to help invent a new model that actually might work better for everyone” – Steven Johnson

What role should policy play in:

  • Culture & Heritage
  • Education & Training
  • Trade & Commerce

As Canadians, we should be asking for smarter government, better policy and a plan for the uncharted future. Not a life support system for an existing set of players.