Traditional media is getting more important as fewer people read itPosted: September 15, 2009 Filed under: News, newspapers | Tags: importance of media, traditional media 2 Comments
Traditional media is shrinking. This shrinkage isn’t yet to a point where it will die any time soon but as we all know the media is becoming an ever smaller universe. Online readership is doing far better than print but still the overall trend is towards a smaller media landscape. So does that mean as PR people we should care proportionally less about the media? It could be argued that we should, since people are spending their time doing other things than reading the news or watching TV. I’d argue the opposite however. I believe that even though fewer people are subscribing to newspapers or watching the daily news on TV, that traditional media has not lost its position of power when it comes to influencing consumer behavior. While the number of people that may read an original article may be falling, the potential influence of that article is potentially greater. Only 20 years ago the idea of seeing a news article and forwarding it to 100 people was at best a time consuming and expensive exercise. Today, anyone with Internet access can do it. In other words, 20 years ago, a news article was as powerful as the people who happened to read it that day (give or take a few people that found it later in their library). Today an article is as good as the number of people that read it and then forward it PLUS the number of people who then find it later when doing a search on Google, PLUS the number of people who find it because someone blogged about it, PLUS the number of people that found it because it was tweeted about, PLUS… you get the picture. I’d therefore argue that even if traditional media circulation is dropping, it’s importance is not. Just as there is a computing law that says the power of a network is proportional to the number of computers attached to that network, I’d argue that the power of the media is connected to the number of people linked to the media. Traditionally that link may have been a subscription. Today it’s a hyperlink.
It’s like the difference between ‘circulation’ and ‘readership’. Back in the day (and I’m not sure whether it’s still the case) publications used to assume a ‘circulation multiplied’ figure for readership…i.e. every copy sold is picked up and read by one or two more people. Obviously the multiplication figure would differ depending on the publication. A glossy like Vogue or Vanity Fair is likely to have a higher readership multiplier, for instance, than a daily newspaper or weekly rag (just think of the months spent in dentists’ waiting rooms, for instance).
The argument now, as you point out, is that a decent old media article can have a far higher readership multiplier because it’s simpler to pass along. Not only that, but it gets passed along with endorsement.
The counter-argument, I guess, is that old media sources – whether hard copy or online – are battling against lots of other sources of information. People are as likely to pas on a link to a piece of user-generated content as they are to an article from an ‘old media’ publication.
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