Death of Print Newspapers in 5 Years (J. William Grimes)

Newspaper, magazine and broadcast media continue to lose audience and revenues to new forms of content that sprout up daily in digital forms. With a 45-year career in the media industry, Grimes will highlight important industry trends, examine changing business models, and talk about social, environmental and economic impacts of the changing media landscape.

from Traditional Media’s Future in an Increasingly Digital World of Unlimited, Ubiquitous Content – The Commonwealth Club of California – San Francisco, CA (July 22, 2009)

As a follow-up to my post on Friday (The American Football League, American Basketball Association and Blog Talk Radio?), in which I talked about the differences between traditional media and the emerging world of social media, the focus ultimately turned to the question of revenue models.

Specifically, can the popularity of social media be practically monetized to the same level that traditional media such as television, print and radio had enjoyed in their past glory days (emphasis on past).  Of even greater interest is if the new media moguls even know how to weave high transactional activity into gold.

It is an interesting question, especially given a December 2, 2008 article titled “Twitter CEO: The revenue’s coming soon, but I won’t tell you how.”  In response to questions surrounding Twitter’s ability to produce tangible revenue, CEO Evan Williams “brushed of again criticism that the company is slow to turn on its revenue generating engines.” While some felt that Williams “was a bit lost on the revenue front,” others got the impression as he spoke further that “he actually had a plan.”

The Williams response, which lacks the certainty of a proactive visionary path, is more in line with a group of guys who woke up one morning and found to their surprise that their simple idea had turned into a global phenomenon.  In essence, there wasn’t really a business plan or revenue model, because the business almost happened by accident.   Based on my July 7th interview with Shel Israel regarding his new book “Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods,” the accident reference is likely accurate.

If this is indeed the case, and social media platforms have evolved to where they are today without a tangible or proven revenue model, what does this mean in terms of ongoing sustainability?

Enter into the picture traditional media industry veterans upon whose experience the new media titans are pinning their hopes in terms of transforming their platforms into revenue generating businesses.

Certainly a logical approach, but one that in and of itself raises its own questions of viability.   For example, and if these traditional industry veterans are utilizing as their primary point of reference the revenue models that according to industry experts like J. William Grimes no longer work, where does that leave everyone?

In his July 22, 2009 address at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco (see video below), Grimes predicted that there will be no daily newspapers in the United States within 5 years.

Referencing statistics which indicated that print newspapers’ share of the $37 billion spent on advertising was 15% – down from 25% a decade earlier, Grimes pointed out that only 5% of our collective time is spent reading newspapers.  This he concluded, “is not a sustainable model.”

A sustainable model however, is precisely what the new social media world desperately needs – if not today, then soon.

Do you see why the American Football League (AFL) reference is turning out to be a pretty good analogy?  As reported in the Friday post, the AFL had the sizzle and swagger of being the latest  and greatest, while the staid old National Football League (NFL) was facing the prospects of an unwelcome downturn caused by a better on-field AFL product.  In short, the AFL appealed to the younger generation but lacked the market maturity and foundational strength, while the NFL had the established maturity and strength but did not reflect the emerging proclivities of its target audience.  In the case of pro football, the meeting of the minds through the merger of the two leagues represented the best “collective” strategy.

The only question that remains is what would be the equivalent solution for the colliding worlds of the traditional and emerging social medias?

My upcoming interview with Blog Talk Radio’s Philip Recchia will enable us to delve much deeper into this as well as other questions regarding the future of social media.  We are also finalizing the schedule for a series of  subsequent segments featuring industry experts – yes we have already started the process of booking guests for what will become another thought-provoking PI Window on Business series, that will help to broaden our understanding of an issue that will only increase in importance with the anticipated growth in social media use.

Final Thoughts . . .

The first of two  final thoughts that will give us all something to ponder leading up to the Recchia interview deals with a comment that Grimes made relative to the fact that “content has never been free,” and that “we pay for it when we buy an advertised product.”

The second thought centers on Grimes’ recollection that when he started with ESPN in 1981, we paid on average $100 per year for cable service.  Today, we now pay $800 per year for satellite service.  The point to which Grimes was alluding is that if you deliver the right content, the public will be willing to pay.

more about “Death of Print Newspapers in 5 Years …“, posted with vodpod

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