How the Internet Affects Traditional Media

Traditional Editorial, REST IN PEACE

This is the headline that greets you when you land on a website erected as a monument to commemorate the decline of traditional media. A photograph of a man who appears to be in distress and may have just lost his job accompanies this headline. If this doesn’t paint a bleak picture, he goes on to read the 548 headlines that sing to the same beat as the following:

  • Bad times: NYT says revenue fell 13.9% last month –
  • Monthly men’s magazine Arena to go out of print after 22 years –
  • British publisher Cosmopolitan to cut 100 jobs –

There is even a website titled Newspaper Death Watch that chronicles all the newspaper and publishing houses that are going out of business. All pretty morbid, don’t you think?

the death spell

Let’s take a quick look at traditional media and how the Internet casts its death spell.

In the old days, we are talking about 500 years ago; Gutenberg revolutionized the printing industry by inventing the printing press. This meant that bibles could be produced in a fraction of the time he used to. This also meant more copies in a shorter time and the Word of God had a greater reach in a shorter time. Newspaper houses and magazine publishers still use a printing press today (well thanks captain obvious).

Much later, shortly after the advent of electricity, the world was blessed with a few other advances in media, namely radio and, a few years later, television. Marketers and ad agencies had it all figured out designing integrated marketing campaigns with astronomical budgets. Oh the good times. Well, to the dismay of many of these agencies, this media landscape has begun to change.

Behold! Enter the WWW

At first, a website was seen as a cute way to put your company brochure online, and furthermore, the disastrous era of the dot-bombs generated skepticism that labeled the internet a bad media and business channel.

Fortunately, the Internet has since matured. Now, in countries where broadband has achieved high levels of penetration in homes, the web has become the preferred medium for consumers.

Why? Because people can research, shop online, watch videos and connect with friends, all from the comfort of their own homes. People can choose what media they want to consume, where and when they choose too, especially with mobile connectivity. Marketers can no longer dictate which advertising messages people submit to.

Social Networks, The New Black

Then there is the phenomenon of Social Networks. It changed the media landscape forever. Social networking websites have enabled consumers to connect with friends, family, colleagues, and peers in ways that were never imaginable a few decades ago.

Technology has empowered the consumer to become the Prosumer. Prosumers are consumers who produce content such as videos, photos, and blogs that can be instantly distributed and shared among millions of people via social media platforms. This is also known as User Generated Content or UCG.

Here’s some interesting trivia on the reach of traditional media vs. Internet and Social Networks.

Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million:

  • Radio – 38 Years
  • television – 13 years
  • Internet – 4 years
  • The iPod – 3 years
  • Facebook – 2 years

So how does the Internet affect traditional media?

The Internet has diminished the need for traditional media because it allowed consumers to join social partnerships within their neighborhoods, across their countries, and internationally. It has allowed them to chat in their spare time, 24/7, with friends.

Taking all that has been said into account, the demise of traditional media can largely be attributed to the following factors:

  1. Decrease in readers: The distribution of free news and information on the web has led to a decline in the readership of traditional publications.
  2. Decrease in income: The decline in readership means that advertisers will spend their money elsewhere and this leads to a decline in ad revenue.
  3. Real time updates: Traditional media cannot compete with user-generated content that is instantly updated and immediately available for the world to see.
  4. The rise of UGC websites: People have the freedom to make unlimited real-time comments on content, while traditional media is static and a one-way communication tool.
  5. Online audio/video channels: People can choose what they want to watch and listen to, when and where they want without advertising interrupting their experience.

Just put. The Internet has revolutionized the way things are done today. It has revolutionized the way we do business, the way we communicate and has broken down the walls of traditional media.

One recent example is Unilever UK’s decision to ditch Lowe, its ad agency for 15 years, in favor of crowdsourcing, meaning it has opened up the creative field of branding to agencies and basically anyone who can think of an idea, anywhere in the world. This is done on the Internet, of course.

Traditional media will be around for a while, but the Internet is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives.

Think about this. I could go without Mail & Guardian or MensHealth Mag for quite some time, maybe live quite happily without? But you dare to cut that ADSL connection…

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