Media Madness: What 20-year-old, his hour finally come round at last, slouches towards New York Times headquarters to be born?

May 5, 2009 at 12:55 am Leave a comment


As a general rule, it is a bad idea to try to install a new drive shaft in a car that is going 70 mph. Metaphorically speaking, this is  the argument that Lesley M.M. Blume makes in “The Media’s Lost Generation” (published at about the seismic shifts in the media landscape that are tearing once-proud media companies apart. New viable economic models are not emerging as fast as the old ones are being destroyed. An analyst she interviews singles out a wildly popular new media property as a prime example of this:

“Take the Huffington Post, for example,” says one analyst, who specializes in media at a private-equity firm. “They don’t pay their writers, and who knows what the value of the company is. That company might not exist five years from now. It’s the big success story, and it’s not successful.”

Perhaps most dispiriting of all is a sense that the old school media have more or less given up on finding a solution to their problems. Instead, the seem to be relying on little more than hopes and prayers. Blume writes:

“Many journalists interviewed for this piece—on both sides of the old/new-media divide—say that they are eagerly waiting for a 20-year-old to crack a Facebook-esque code of some sort, a college kid who will come up with a business model that will redeem the media world and everyone in it.

“That makes the new-media order a strange place indeed: The recent college grad isn’t supposed to fetch coffee or fill the copy machine; he or she is supposed to be the messiah of the company, albeit at a very low salary.

“There’s been an inversion of experiences,” says MacNicol, citing a memo that the New York Times management recently circulated to its whole newsroom—from the most junior to the most senior employees—soliciting ideas from everyone about how to increase revenues. “When the Times is doing that, you know that we have lost the traditional definitions of success.”

It goes without saying that this sort of turmoil in the media landscape is going to have tremendous ramifications for the advertising industry. With all due respect to Chris Anderson, “free” has not proven itself to be a viable economic model in a broad sense. Until it does or something else replaces it, look for more misery and dwindling market caps.




Entry filed under: Advertising and Marketing.

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May 2009

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