Sunday, May 09, 2004

More hand-wringing
I assume many of you checking in here have seen the AP story about "international editors and publishers [warning] ... that nontraditional communications -- such as cell phone text messages -- are rapidly outflanking radio, television and print media because of their immediacy and proximity to the public."
Wow! Really?
Just discover that, huh?

News executives have to get over this primacy thing. Hint: The medium no longer is the message -- the message is the message, and people will seek it out through whatever medium is most convenient at the time. Which is why it's so disturbing to read things like Ifra's Newstechniques, which monthly details how European and Asian news operations are years ahead of American newsrooms in incorporating mobile services. And even in those countries, the hand-wringing continues.

What the story calls the "thumb generation" is being credited for helping to elect Socialist Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as Spain's prime minister through a barrage of text messages after the March 11 Madrid bombings.
Later in the story, it notes that a newspaper in schools program in Italy, which has one of the lowest newspaper readership levels among all age groups, has "made some headway" in getting those age 14 to 19 to read.
"But the students participating in a round-table discussion criticized the newspaper publishers and editors for using arcane language, rehashing crime stories already seen on television and wasting space by reporting on reality TV shows.
They said free tabloids, which comprise about 1 million of Italy's total newspaper circulation of 7 million, were making headway against mainstream newspapers because of their direct approach and brief stories."

So I wonder why these basics still seem so hard to get through:
-- Your consumers will get their news how and when they want it
-- They don't want to be pandered to
-- They want to be talked to directly, as equals
-- They want (if I may paraphrase an entry by someone in their early 20s on a listserv to which I belong) their newspaper to be their newspaper, not their friend or their buddy. They want substantive reporting.
-- You can manage for decline, squeezing all the cash flow you can out of your news operation to please the shareholders, or you can manage to expand your franchise, reinvesting in your main product -- reporting the news like no one else can -- and embracing change -- helping your staff understand how to deal with it and use it to their advantage.
Then our readers might respect us in the morning.

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