Speak a lot and you’ll get noticed (or thrown out).
I speak a lot. In each of the past ten years, I given approximately half a dozen speeches at all sorts of media conferences. Yet since 2000, most traditional publishers and broadcasters haven’t liked what I said. That’s because I’m saying that they are wrong; I’m saying that most are steering their media companies towards disasterous shoals in print, broadcast, and online.
Maybe that’s why in recent years I’ve not been invited again to speak in at most publishers’ and broadcasters’ conferences in America (but am in demand at American journalists’ and academics’ conferences plus at publishers’ and broadcasters’ conferences abroad). What little feedback I’ve gotten from traditional publishers and broadcasters is that most think I’m too radical, contrarian, ‘alarmist,’ and too far removed from what they think they need to do to reverse the long declining usage of their media.
That is too bad, because I think many of them are the ones who are too removed from what needs to be done and too far removed from their readers, viewers, and listeners. The data about their declining readership, viewership, and listenership supports what I say. So, if I’m telling them what they don’t want to hear, then I hope they’ll pardon me because it is what needs to be said.
At least people outside the media are taking notice. I’m pleased to be one of 23 Americans chosen for inclusion in the biennial book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005, published as part of H. W. Wilson Company’s The Reference Series.
Alongside my speech, in a section that the book’s editors call Established and New Media, are speeches by Jan Schaffer, the executive director of the University of Maryland’s Institute for Interactive Journalism; b>Alan Nelson, publisher and co-founder of Command Post; and U.S. Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton.
Jan’s excellent speech was her keynote to the annual meeting of the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors (AASFE), in New Orleans on October 1, 2004. Entitled Interactive Journalism: Drawing in Readers with a High-Tech Approach, it challenged the editors to create interactive journalism that makes information meaningful to people’s lives, create online civic participation, and give people a participatory stake in stories.
Alan spoke 15 days later at the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) annual conference, held in Louisville, Kentucky. Earlier that morning, I’d given a speech there earlier that was later referred to by Columbia Journalism Review, but Alan’s speech was much more interesting. He explained how that he and some other created a group weblog that’s now has more than 7 million registered users who want to know news from the war and occupation of Iraq more directly than from mainstream news media.
Senator Clinton’s speech, on March 8, 2005, in Washington, D.C., was a keynote overview of the Kaiser Family Foundation‘s survey Generation M: Media in the Lives of Kids 8 to 18 about how children and teenagers are using new-media more than traditional media and probably will do so for the rest of their lives.
My speech was to the Broadcast Education Association’s session during the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference, held April 22, 2005, in Las Vegas. NAB is a conference of traditional broadcasters, yet its BEA session is more open to new ideas.
Oddly, mine wasn’t a keynote or even a prepared speech. Instead, my impromptu remarks as the first person speaking on a four-person panel entitled Reinventing the Local TV Station: Ground-Breaking Ideas from Innovative Thinkers were recorded by the BEA and the publishers of Representative American Speeches 2004-2005 apparently transcribed it. (This meant that I had to run their book through Optical Character Recognition software so that I could reproduce my own speech below!)
Other speakers included in the book are Kenneth Beldon, Robert Reich, Peter Sprigg, Evan Wolfson, and U.S. Senator Barack Obama on the what the book’s editors call A Divided America; Ronald Flowers, R. Drew Smith, Nadine Strossen, and Donald Wuerl on Church and State; Mariah Burton Nelson, Peter Orszag, William Spriggs, Mark Warshawsky, and President George W. Bush on Seniors and Social Security; and Stephen Dannhauser, T. R. Reid, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush on America and the New Europe.
My congratulations to Jan, Alan, and Senator Clinton on being quoted about the state of media. Under the link below is my speech about the challenge for the TV industry.
(Vin Crosbie’s speech delivered on April 22, 2005, at Las Vegas, Nevada, to the Broadcast Education Association’s session of the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference.)
Thanks, Max [Grubb of Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications for his introduction]. The beauty of that is those credentials don’t necessarily apply here. Why is a guy with largely newspaper industry credentials doing here at the world’s largest broadcasting conference?
Because 11 years ago, when I stopped working in the old media and began working full-time in the new-medium, print was about all that you could realistically put online. In a world of 300-baud or 1200-baud modems, we couldn’t really deliver video online.
How the world has changed since then! According to the latest figure, 56 percent of the American homes that are online now have broadband connections. Most American corporations already do. Video has become as easy to deliver online as is print.
And what a phenomenal latent market for online video news! According to the Pew Internet Study, 83 percent of Americans say that they get most of their news and information from television. They are going to want that news and information online, too.
During the past decade, more than 600 million consumers – including 167 million Americans — migrated online, even though the Internet really gave them only text and still photos. What if they could have just as easily gotten their favorite medium – video – online?
And video news had better get online. According to the investment bank Veronis Shuler, the ratio of time they spent watching TV against the time spent on the Internet, in households that had both, was 8:1 in 2000 but is 4:1 today. To keep what’s left of its share of Americans’ attention, TV news must be delivered online rather than just on cable or over the airwaves.
The fact is that television, not magazines or newspapers, is the news medium that’s lost the most of consumers’ spare time and attention to the Internet, according to surveys of consumer media usage.
The conference program says the title of my speech today is Challenging the News Establishment. Well, this is the challenge: Video news must go online or else.
Indeed, it’s somehow appropriate that this Broadcast Education Association session is held at the end of the NAB conference, when all the exhibits are being torn down. There is a visual metaphor occurring outside: Look outside and you’ll see the broadcast industry being disassembled. That’s what’s actually happening to the broadcast industry.
And I’m glad to be the opening speaker on a panel entitled Reinventing the Local TV Station: Ground-Breaking Ideas from Innovative Thinkers. Why? Because it’s the local stations that will win or lose the future for the broadcast industry.
We’ve heard at NAB what the national networks are doing in the it face of the major changes the broadcast industry faced. But the But they’ve got enough staff and money to do whatever they want (even if they don’t know what they’re doing). The real challenge in the broadcast industry is what can a local ‘I’V station do when faced with the major change in the industry?
And you broadcast journalism educators in the audience have the hardest challenge of all: You’ve got to teach the future, literally teach the future. Your students are the future, and the future is what you must teach them.
Are there major changes occurring? Of course, there are. Everyone now realizes it. Everybody.
For example, Rupert Murdoch last week gave a speech in which he said about the changes, “As an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent. Certainly, I didn’t do as mush as I should have after all the excitement of the late 1990 s.I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along.
“Well it hasn’t…it won’t… And it’s a fast developing reality we should grasp as a huge opportunity to improve our journalism and expand our reach.”
And what’s remarkable about that speech isn’t what was said but who said it – Rupert, the wizard of old media. He’s finally got the new medium religion. In media, that’s like the Roman Emperor Justinian converting to Christianity. It’s a baptism. What was subversive has now become the accepted status quo.
Broadcast is migrating online. ABC this month launched it’s 24-hour news channel only on broadband, not cable or terrestrial broadcast. CNN and CBS have similar broadband channels in to works.
Another example of how the industry is migrating online? The John Stewart clip, in which he demolished CNN’S Crossfire show, got 400,000 viewers on TV but 5 million online.
And what are these major changes the broadcast industry faces?
I’ll outline six of them, then we’ll let the following speakers suggest ways that local stations can deal with the changes.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the changes that local TV stations face:
- On-Demand. Less and less will programs be viewed only in a program schedule set by the networks or the stations. More and more will people view programs when they want. It’s already happening Look at Tivo users. Look at how cable operators themselves are beginning to install cable boxes that have built-in Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Although broadcasters might release new programs at specific times, consumers will view those programs more and more whenever they want.
To quote [consultant and blogger] Om Malik: “We can pick and choose what foods we eat, what car we drive, what clothes we wear, but some guy in New York decides when we watch the news?” Or a guy at the local station. Well, no longer.
For an example of a specific effect of this, consider program schedules that have involved lead-ins. lf you’ve had Oprah scheduled just before your evening news program, it’s been a good lead in that drives more viewers into your evening news. But now consumers’ digital devices will be recording shows and later playing them whenever those consumers want, they’ll be recording just Oprah and not your following local news show. The ‘art’’ of program scheduling ceases to exist.
- Another major change, and related to on-demand, is Customized Programming. Indeed, no more network. For example, a consumer named Wilma will no longer watch the ABC network shows or the Channel 11 shows. She’ll be creating and watching the ‘Wilma’ network, a network just for herself. She’ll pick her favorite shows, favorite actors, and favorite genres, and then have her digital TV device find those shows from among all networks and assemble those shows into a customized network just for her. Even if some of those shows otherwise run at the same time on competing networks.
A TV network or a local TV channel will no longer necessarily be a network or channel, but just pieces for assembly into almost as many networks as there are viewers themselves. Particularly when ‘IV migrates online into IP TV.
No mass, no more. TV networks and local TV channels will no longer be mass media, but ingredients for a massive number of very personal TV networks.
- Another change is Pervasive Mobility. You’ll no longer need a TV to get TV. Part of this change is that every digital device will accept video. For example, Korean TV next month will begin satellite broadcasting-of 13 channels of digital TV directly into Koreans cell phones. Of course, they’ve got the Third-Generation (3G) broadband cell phones there. Likewise soon, iPods and similar digital music devices will begin playing video as well as audio.
Another part of this change is that every surface can become a display. All e-paper – the flexible electronic paper-under development – can accept video, not just text. The printing industry has developed electronic displays that don’t require screen-printing in a computer ‘clean room.’ In seven to 10 years, your local print shop will be able to go out and screenprint a computer display onto anything. Walls, trucks, refrigerators. You’ve seen giant electronic displays here in Las Vegas, but you’ll soon be seeing them on the sides of delivery trucks in your local town. And those will be displaying video.
- Another change is that Bandwidth and Memory are No Longer Problems. Broadband consumers have hundreds of thousands of kilobytes per second of download capacity, if not already megabytes. And it’s hard to find a hard drive of less than 10- or 20-gigabytes nowadays, except [in] digital still cameras.
- That Everyone Can Webcast is another change. Thank broadband and inexpensive, even free, video apps. And that webcasting is taking three forms:
Individuals are webcasting or video blogging. That can range 11 year-old Dylan Verdi, whose videos are seen by thousands of of people per day, to 50-something Jeff Jarvis, whose office webcast , seen here during the Radio and Television News Directors Association [session].
Non-video media is now webcasting. Newspapers are clamoring to add video to their online offerings. Even radio is. Last week, the Clear Channel company announced that 200 of its radio stations will start offering live video online.
Everyone is becoming a broadcaster online. And many of them are beginning to trade videos online. Peer-to-peer video networks are beginning to form. Or sites like OurMedia.org, which provides free storage and free bandwidth for trading people’s own videos, audio files, photos text, or software.
Face it, with all these changes, much of the broadcast industry that you’ve long taught no longer exists. It’s being disassembled almost as quickly as the teamsters and carpenters outside can disassemble the NAB display floor.
Now, the bad news. As Rupert said, the broadcast industry didn’t do as much as it should to deal with these changes. Still largely isn’t doing what it should. Five years ago, many broadcasters dismissed these changes when the dot.com boom ended. But it was simply a case that they could no longer see the forest because of al1 the trees.
Many pundits nowadays are fond of quoting Harvard Business School Professors Clayton Christensen, of The Innovator’s Dilemma, or Clark Gilbert. I instead prefer to cite Professor Donald Sull, who studies how legacy companies or legacy industries react to major changes. He found that the reaction isn’t paralysis but what he calls ‘active inertia.’ Companies or industries tend to react to change by doing what they’ve always done, only more feverishly, even though doing so no longer makes sense.
Don’t do that in broadcast education.
Many, such as Ad Age magazine columnist Bob Garfield, are predicting a meltdown of the broadcast industry, predicting that the transition won’t be happy or pretty but will be chaos and disaster. I agree.
That some may want to see only Britney Spears news may be their democratic right, empowered by new medium technology. But how do you responsibly inform the public without contravening that right?
I don’t think this insularity will create a new Dark Age, but it could very well create a Gray Age of ignorance. Some say that is early happening.
What can you do to make it otherwise?
In the interest of time, 1’ll yield to my fellow panelists. Among them, Jerry Condra, who helped organize this panel, had asked me talk about what broadcasters can do now to make great Web sites. If anyone is interested in that, we can talk about it in the question and answer period.