Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sign of the Times, the Posts, the Heralds, the Globes, the Tribunes etc

That money that Huffington snared from Graycroft venture capital last summer is starting to talk. The HuffPo is adding writers, has a collaboration going with Josh Marshall/TPM and has expanded its web format to provide separate "front pages" for departments that used to crowd into their own small DIV or table cell on the old front page. Even people who do not consider her media mogul material admit Huffington rides the coming wave.

Simultaneously and very telling of the changes in the industry is an opinion piece that just coincidentally lands on the same main page where Arianna announces the growth spurt: Nancy Cleland explains her regrets and discontents as she takes leave of the LA Times in an employee buy-out/downsizing imposed by the LA Times' parent Tribune Company. The Tribune sees this as a solution to shrinking revenues. I see that as a downward spiral. Cleland writes with a better idea the Tribune Company probably would never consider: it does not involve rich people.

I see those two developments, both the rise and the demise, as being related. The Tribune board of directors could learn a trick or two from the boards at McDonalds or Walmart: rich people can get richer if they think about what poor people want or need. Just because McNews is already a media staple for network broadcast news does not mean that the product always has to be slanted or bland. It is not just that Huffington is more savvy about a "new" media and it is not going to help the Tribune to hire a better webmaster or read a thicker pile of "Web marketing for Dummies" books. The more important novelty of web vs print is its democracy, not its technology or its evanescent revenue model.

For those of us who do not read the papers or watch the TV for mere entertainment, if we take in information from those media at all, the action his here:
Recent decades have seen radical transformations of the media, and many people tend to see those changes as entirely driven by technology. But legal and political decisions have remained central in determining what kind of media develop. In 1987, the FCC discarded the fairness doctrine, and it no longer uses its authority to promote public-affairs programming. The abandonment of the fairness doctrine also released the broadcast media from requirements for balance and opened the way to the targeting of ideological audiences. In a sense, these developments represent a return to the partisan journalism of 19th-century America. Partisanship was muted in the media through the mid-20th century; now it is far more open, sharp, and often belligerent.
[I will come back to that Tech Review piece later this week from a different angle]

If you will only serve the rich who can easily afford your service, you would be smart to advocate an increase in the numbers of the rich. Will your clients support that?

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