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A pyrrhic victory

Zafar Anjum | Dec. 10, 2008
Will online medias triumph over the print turn out to be a pyrrhic victory in the long run?

Recession grips American media, screamed a headline. Then followed a litany of details, on failing or financially challenged publications in the US.

According to the report, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune has filed for bankruptcy. One of the worlds most popular (print as well as online) newspapers, The New York Times, is seeking a US$225 million loan against its headquarters in Manhattan. The Miami Herald is already on sale. From a daily, The Christian Science Monitor has become a weekly. And so on.

Of course, I read the story online. And right there, you can see the reason thats creating this media recession.

There is nothing particularly new about this phenomenon of declining profits, which is now almost global in nature. For years, as more and more people are choosing to access news and views online, we have been hearing about the impending death of the print media. Every few months, the news of a media companys woes surfaces and the debate (print vs. online media) gets rekindled.

So what is really going on?

Will online become a complimentary medium, just as radio first threatened and then emerged as complimentary to print media? Will internet and other media come to co-exist?

The answer is probably no. Everything will become Internet.

I will tell you why.

Broadband in USUnlike the past technologies, there is a fundamental difference between the internet and the other media (like newspapers, magazines, radio or TV). It is not just one thingit is everything in one: your newspaper, radio and TV all rolled into one. It is on-demand and consumer-controlled. And the good thing is that you dont need a Tivo to cut out the commercials. You can read, watch or hear pretty much whatever you want, on a screen big (desktop/notebook) or small (mobile devices), in a stationary or mobile state. And there are two more good things going for it. You can shout back (become your own author or make yourself heard) and its mostly free.

It is the last factorcontent being offered free of chargethat is creating problems for the traditional media. However, it is not the reader or the platform itself that is a handicap for the media companies. It is the advertisers and their media planners who are failing to go with the flow.

And thats the real problem.

While the readers have, for obvious reasons, increasingly moved to the online platform, the advertisers want to stick to the coattails of an age-old set up. If not so, then why would they value a print reader many times over an online reader?


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