Reports of media’s death have been greatly exaggerated

December 15, 2010

Traditional media is falling like dinosaurs. Or is it?

Five years ago, I never would have imagined that the media I loved and cherished would disappear.

Like dinosaurs caught in a comet storm, I watched the large and powerful fall under their own weight. Newsweek bought by The Daily Beast. BusinessWeek usurped by Bloomberg. Adweek down to about 15 pages of content. U.S. News & World Report now sporadically published online.

All doom and gloom, right? But not so fast. With every door closed there comes a Gizmodo. A Gawker. A Mashable. An Examiner.com. And it’s not all just upstarts. As of December 2010, the top trafficked online news sites included some familiar faces. Consider:

 

1. Yahoo News
2. CNN
3. MSNBC
4. Google News
5. The New York Times
6. The Huffington Post
7. Digg
8. Fox News
9. The Washington Post
10. Los Angeles Times

So it’s not the loss of opportunity that causes pause. For a large part, the top online news sources present the same opportunities for exposure as the media of the past, sans the printing press and postage. Rather, it’s the fluidity of circumstance that has caused such chaos and resulted in obituaries written before their time.

It all reminds me of a meeting I had with a video rental chain in the late 1980s. I just had to ask, “How long before cable and this thing called the Internet delivers movies directly to your home, thereby killing the need for storefronts?” The executives all laughed. I blamed it on their own denial. Yet, it took nearly 20 years for those threats to bankrupt Blockbuster, which is now re-inventing itself as an online play.

The reality is that no one knows who will win the revolution. No doubt, the simple economics and efficiencies of the Internet will drive more print and broadcast media online. But the counterbalance is there. Major traditional media continues to generate much of the content that powers the Internet.

And while more and more online publications are making the jump from re-reporting the news to creating it themselves with staffs of reporters and editors, big media — The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and The Associated Press — still play major roles in what shapes the context and bounds of what is and what isn’t news. Their voices remain large and important as the top list of news sources confirms.

And so our jobs are assured. After all, we’re not in this to call the winners and losers. We’re in it to feed those voices with ideas, information, and content that can advance our clients’ causes, regardless of whether those voices are printed, digitized, or broadcast to the ultimate audience.

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