Time for media to adapt


Miles Jordan, [email protected]

Death and change are the two inevitable parts of life. Buzz Feed is experiencing both in the dawn of 2019 as over 2,000 employees have been laid off. The latest Buzz Feed news raises an age-old question of the long term viability of television, radio and especially in Buzz Feed’s case newspaper.

The answer to the question is not as simple though. Clearly, none of the media trifectas are obsolete, but they are not what they once were. The cliché story is that radio and newspapers were supreme until TV came along, and then TV was supreme until the internet. This is true. However, this does not make the individual services dead.

While they are not dead, each service will never be what it once was and that’s where the conversation becomes important. Daily newspapers have become a thing of the past and the likelihood of their revival is low. Similarly, the era of radio dominance is gone too.

According to pewresearch, all major news media fell beside the radio in 2017. The newspaper went down 11 percent in daily circulation, cable TV went down 12 percent, network TV went down seven percent during nightly news and 10 percent for daily news. Radio, though, grew in 2017.

Radio is the example to look at and to follow. Radio’s recent success is due to multiple factors. The main factor is that radio reaches nearly 90 percent of adults on a weekly basis. Beyond the sheer numbers, radio has successfully tapped into GenZ by using Spotify and Apple as major radio sources. The third reason is the growth of podcasts and the widespread appeal they have. According to Edisonresearch, nearly 60 percent of podcast listeners are aged 18 to 54.

Television and newspapers have to figure out a way to use the successes of radio as a template for success. They also have to understand that striving for the results of yesteryear will certainly lead to failure.

The first step for newspapers is to understand that the future is digital. The print edition can exist, but the digital needs to be the focal point. The main reason for this is that the advertisement needs to be online. Advertising in a print edition that fewer people read makes no sense. There is no incentive for an advertiser to give advertisements in a print version.

Second, newspaper companies must create better websites. The truth is few people want to interact with an old, run-down website. The better the interface, the better the quality of the website and the more people will look.

Younger generations like images, good interfaces and aesthetic quality not just articles and quality of writing. The quality of writing is still important, but that needs to be combined with quality web media as well.

Other than going digital newspapers need to crank up the production. Other than competing with each other, newspapers have to compete with social media users who don’t follow the same guidelines when sharing news that traditional journalists do. Weekly newspapers have it the hardest because for today’s consumers, there’s no difference between being a day old or a week old.

The most important change as it relates to print editions is to go away from broadsheets and to understand that tabloids are the best form of paper for current media consumers. Broadsheets are too text heavy for young people. Tabloids have the capability of having the proper amount of articles, graphics and photographs.

Television has several issues affecting it’s long term viability. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu keep driving people away from cable based subscriptions.

In today’s age, people value convenience and accessibility over anything else. A generation of people who’ve grown up having all their desired content on demand will not settle for major television networks deciding when they’re going to release their content.

Netflix will produce original series and have whole seasons available at once to watch. Other than entertainment, news is becoming more widespread due to advances in technology.

Thanks to cellphones and live streaming capabilities, you no longer have to wait until the next newscast to get your dosage of content.

News organizations in an effort to draw more viewers will go live on social media during off hours to better keep their audience informed.

The most important thing for media sources to understand is that reaching old heights will not happen, but that does not mean growth and improvement is impossible.

TV and newspaper have to understand the demographics that they are aiming for and make their content specific to that group. Adapt to today’s culture and follow the herd.

As great of an idea as it is to try and get everyone to read or watch, it is an unrealistic model for success. Magazines have maintained their audience due to having a very specific target in mind and catering to them.

The capability of success for the older media is there, but they have got to take it upon themselves and learn.