This summer, I am interning at two companies: The first is Buddy Media, a start-up company focused on helping companies successfully market themselves in the realm of social media. The second is NY1 television, a more traditional news station. Working for these two companies brought me to think about the future of media, and where the two companies may someday intersect.
I’m not breaking any news when I write that the state of media is, to say the least, in a state of flux. Newspapers are struggling across the board, television ratings, particularly network newscasts, are a fraction of what they once were, and the Internet is a giant vat of news in which the user is responsible for picking out what is credible and what is junk.
This isn’t new. The writing has been on the wall for traditional media outlets for years now, as they struggled to adapt to the changing climate of consumer-produced and consumer-controlled content. The problem is not necessarily that the climate has changed. That was inevitable as technology evolved. The problem with the established media was the hesitation, reluctance and downright stubbornness of the old guard to roll with the punches. It was always assumed that profit margins would continue to be ridiculously high, because, after all, where else would people find out about the war overseas, the state of the economy or that creepy woman down the street who actually donates all of her money to homeless shelters?
But then Al Gore invented the Internet, and soon enough, every news outlet had a website, blogs were breaking news and reporters were tweeting out info on their stories long before it was published in any traditional news outlet. But profit margins are still down across the board for the old guard.
Which brings us to today. Traditional journalism jobs are dwindling, journalists are being asked to do more with less, and companies are struggling just to stay afloat. The Internet isn’t just hurting media companies, though. Many companies are struggling to figure out how to tap into the 24/7 connectivity that iPhones, laptops and blackberries provide.
Enter: Buddy Media. Rather than shamelessly plug the company that is helping to subsidize the cost of my living in the most ridiculously high-priced city in the country, let me just say this: Buddy Media gets it when it comes to brand promotion online. They have created Facebook fan pages and applications for companies interested in stepping outside the box of traditional advertising.
Is it effective? Consider tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people that have signed up for a company’s fan page like Bud Light. Then consider the ways that a company can use this Facebook page to communicate directly with Facebook users. It’s a priceless tool that, in the age of Tivo, can be invaluable for companies trying to get the word out about a new product, new marketing campaign, or new location.
So the question then becomes, how can a company like Buddy Media help save journalism? While it might not be Buddy Media that helps make online journalism profitable, it will be a company with a similar mindset and skill set that does so. The problem with online content is that advertising space is much cheaper than in newspapers or on television. Thus, posting a newscast online won’t garner as much in the way of profit as that same newscast during the 6 o’clock time slot. It would be very, very hard for these companies to survive solely online, though some companies are going that route anyways.
And the traditional news outlets have already proven that they can’t figure it out themsleves. They seemingly have tried everything at this point: their reporters tweet, their stories appear in print and in video form on their websites, and they try to incorporate user-created content as best they can. But it’s still not working, because news outlets keep cutting jobs and consolidating newsgathering sources. The audience keeps fragmenting into smaller and smallers segments, with more and more specialized interests. Hyper-local reporting is in. People are just as interested in the job fair going on down the street as they are with North Korea’s latest craziness.
Companies like Buddy Media can help bring together these traditional journalism outlets with advertisers who know how to promote themselves online. There needs to be a complete integration of news content with Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. As it stands now, news outlets find the online part nice, but they still devote most of their resources to the traditional product. This attitude needs to change. News outlets need to get people to want to watch this:
As much as, if not more than, this:
Maybe the hampster is an unfair competitor for the news outlets (that little fellow is cute), but you get the idea. Somehow, news needs to become exciting again. When it reaches that point, advertisers will come flocking back. And to make that happen, a company like Buddy Media will facilitate it, through iPhone applications and facebook pages.
Imagine getting breaking news videos while on the bus to work. But, in order for you to watch them, you need to download an application from Six Flags onto your iPhone that allows you to build your own roller coaster and then send it to a friend on Facebook. It’s advertising that is interactive and fun, and also allows you access to great traditional news content. That’s the future of journalism, in my opinion.
Is journalism worth saving? That’s a discussion for another blog post. But does it have a future? I hope so.
I have a very expensive degree riding on it.
Leave your thoughts below on where you think journalism and advertising is headed.