Thursday, January 11, 2007

Media Infidelity: Are TV and Print Sleeping With The Internet?

In today's Washington Post, Frank Ahrens writes a fascinating article about how the Web - specifically digital video like YouTube and homegrown content like Myspace - have ruined the relationship between newspapers and television.

While Ahrens picks up on a different side to this burgeoning trend, noting the increase of failed "synergies" between the two formats - he does admit that often, they never worked well together.

"Even though TV stations still are profitable, they no longer enjoy the dominance they did in days before cable and the Internet. And in many places, the newspaper and television cultures never meshed," Ahrens wrote.

The problem, it seems, is that formats simultaneously compete against each other for a person's attention but not necessarily for coverage. And that is the inherent problem in such a relationship.

For example, I get my news from print. The web, specifically, but certainly not from broadcast news. My parents, on the other hand, haven't gotten a paper in the mail in years, but the news is always on during breakfast and dinner.

So you see, the relationship was flawed from the start - television won't win me over because I prefer reading news, print won't win my parents over because they prefer hearing it.

That said, the Internet as a news source is only splitting the pie even further - and I don't think media executives should expect any "synergies" to boost revenue.

Something tells me a 14-year-old girl with too much eyeliner is not taking away from Katie Couric's bottom line.

Ahrens knows what I'm talking about:

"If such content draws viewers, it can be sold to advertisers, and newspapers have achieved a sort of perpetual-motion machine: cost-free content that can support advertising -- in short, nearly pure profit."

So is the "Newspaper-TV Marriage" still showing "Signs of Strain" as the headline indicates?

No. I'm pretty sure they weren't really married to begin with. Just co-habitating in the same portfolio and mixing up each others' personal affects. And I'm pretty sure now that the Internet's moved in, things aren't gonna change. There will just be a little less space and another roommate to share the bathroom with.

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