Friday, January 16, 2015

The Future Of Media

I was fortunate to be included in a panel discussion Thursday afternoon with the current class of Leadership Tomorrow during which the current condition and future of media was discussed.  I was part of a panel, moderated by former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson, which included Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis and dynamic restaurant Public Relations representative Mona Shah-Anderson.  Unfortunately, a representative from the Orange County Register was unable to attend.

For an hour we responded to questions posed to us by Johnson and members of the class, which included some familiar faces.  Dane Bora and Leigh Chalkley of the City of Costa Mesa were in the group, as was Andrew Smith - a member of the Costa Mesa Charter Committee.  Click on that link above and you can see the full roster of this year's class.

Shah-Anderson, the highly-acclaimed restaurant strategist, discussed her approach to getting media coverage for her clients - high-end restaurants throughout Orange County.  She, for example, had just returned from a video shoot at Fox News in Los Angeles that morning and was scampering out to another client commitment following our meeting.  The tries to "personalize" the restaurants by focusing on the chefs and their skills.  Plus, she uses all the current social media sources to the maximum to entice people to the restaurants.  I, personally, have been the victim of her skill.  She posts photos of yummy dishes prepared by her client chefs and I immediately feel like Pavlov's dog - salivating to get a taste of the food.  She is married to former Daily Pilot City Editor, Paul Anderson, who now is the presence of the City News Service in Orange County and a REAL newsman.

We discussed the current condition of print media locally - it's on unsteady ground.  The drama around the Register has been widely chronicled, as has the ownership of the Los Angeles Times - parent company of the Daily Pilot.  There are still some great unknowns about those organizations.  The Register, for example, made a huge commitment to growing it's print presence - acquiring the Riverside Press Enterprise and creating brand new newspapers in both Long Beach and Los Angeles.  Those last two efforts were spectacular failures and the financial condition of the entire organization is precarious, at best.  We learned from Canalis that the Pilot is on solid financial footing right now, but that he'd always welcome the chance to hire more reporters and staff to support them.

In doing some research for this opportunity I found that, since 2004, 187 newspaper printing facilities have been closed nationwide - a bellwether of the condition of the print product.  Between 2003 and 2013 the advertising revenues for the print media has dropped 49%!  More journalism jobs are available in digital media sources than print sources by far.  And, it's not only newspapers that are suffering.  If you subscribe to, or regularly read ANY magazine these days, you realize that they are rapidly becoming mere shadows of themselves.  Folks just don't subscribe as much - because so much of that information is available online at NO COST.  And thereby lies the problem.

The difficulty of covering every story with a reduced staff was part of the discussion by Canalis.  I opined that, being a huge fan of the Daily Pilot myself, I thought they did a good job of balancing their news coverage.  I suggested one measurement of that success was the fact that they've managed to anger folks on both sides of an issue - each presuming that the editors and writers favored the other's point of view.  It's actually amusing in a sad sort of way.

Johnson prodded me about my aggressive opinion-writing on Costa Mesa issues, which I readily acknowledged.  As a blogger I have much more latitude than any of the "real" news outlets.  They are burdened by the responsibility of providing the facts of issues, clearly and accurately and as quickly as possible.  They also must cover a breadth of issues where I can focus on one specific story at a time.  In my opinion - there's that word again - both the Daily Pilot and the Orange County Register do a good job of presenting the news fairly and accurately.  Yeah, I know some of you disagree with me, but I challenge you to point out one issue where they have NOT done so...

Johnson also asked me to quantify the blog - how many people read it, for example.  Well, I told him there are many ways to quantify it, but purely from a "pageviews" standpoint, we have had well over 2 million page views with the current host platform - more than 500,000 each for the past two years.  The readership, based on all the measurements I have available to me, continues to grow.  Thanks to all of you for that.  That being said, those numbers pale when compared to the pageviews tallied by the Daily Pilot or the Register - which is how it should be.  We simply need a viable, thriving, free press in this country.  Otherwise, how do we know what the heck's going on?

I will, unashamedly, tell you that the numbers for this blog far outstrip those of two "competing" blogs in this city.  That "kinder, gentler" blog seems to have lost all traction - not unexpected when his unreadable,  pseudo-intellectual bilge has devolved into comparing activists in this city to Muslim terrorists. The much more established blog operated by our racist laureate has lost readership so significantly that it doesn't even show up on many measurement tools.  I guess that's a good sign.  It tells me that folks just got tired of wading through all the manure posted there looking for a pearl of wisdom.   Typically, you'd come away from a session reading that thing and feel like you need a good shower.

The more than two dozen people in the class covered the spectrum age-wise, as you can see from the photo above.  Most of them, in response to Johnson's first question, acknowledged that they do NOT read a newspaper each day.  Several did, but most did not.  Many of the class members get their news from smart phones and/or tablets - which, according to the research I did, is the wave of the future.  Unfortunately, nobody has yet successfully found a way to make money selling the news that way.  That's a problem that simply must be solved.  We cannot let the future of news in this country be blogs like mine or, God Forbid, those other two!  That's completely unacceptable.

Here are some snippets of information extracted from a recent Pew State Of The News Media report from last year.
  • News is part of the explosion of social media and mobile devices, which could be a way to reach more people than ever before.
  • Half of Facebook users get news there even though they did not go there looking for it.
  • Facebook users who get news at the highest rates are the 18-to-29-year-olds.
  • The same is true for the growth are of online video.  Half of those who watch some kind of online video watch news videos.  Again, young people constitute the greatest portion of these viewers.
  • Despite evidence of news consumption by Facebook users - half of whom report getting news across at least six topic areas - research data finds these consumers to have rather low levels of engagement with news sites.
  • Their study found that roughly 5,000 full-time professional jobs at nearly 500 digital news outlets, most of which did not exist a half-dozen years ago.
  • Local television remains the primary place American adults turn to for news, and the audience increased for the first time in five years.
  • A quarter of the 952 U.S. television stations that air newscasts do not produce their news programs. 
You can read that report in it's entirety HERE.

Thanks to Tom Johnson, Chairman Joe Stapleton and Vice Chairman Jon Lewis - recently promoted to Deputy Police Chief in Newport Beach - and the Leadership Tomorrow class of 2015 for inviting me to participate.  I hope my input was helpful to them - and I hope they become regular readers here.

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Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

The decline of newspapers is at least part of the reason why fools with money can be elected - I'm talking nationwide, not just locally. We need to read, and read more than just one source.

1/16/2015 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

What a wonderful opportunity, Geoff. Good information. Like everything else, industry is changing. Some for the better.

1/16/2015 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

We subscribed to the LATimes and the Daily Pilot for decades. Then, Last year, the LATimes informed me that we could no longer put vacation holds longer than 30 days on our account. My husband's retort: Cancel our subscription. We no longer read a hard-copy version. Nowadays, we access the LATimes, the Daily Pilot and the New York Times via the internet. My favorite news source? The Daily Show :-)

1/16/2015 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Interesting read as usual, Geoff.

I wasn't aware that you (or anyone with the proper information) is able to track the "hits" on another blog site. I don't doubt your numbers though. I used to click on Millards filth just to see what his latest rant was, but now have grown so tired of his racist schtick, no longer put myself through that. And Popp has become borderline psychotic...not to mention the derth of the kitty pictures.

1/16/2015 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger valan2 said...

How come I didn't read anything about this in the newspaper? ;-)

1/16/2015 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Just Saying said...

Keep up the good work. I am one of the many who read and appreciate the information and thoughtful opinions.

1/16/2015 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

I love print media! In my opinion it's a loss to society as a whole if the newspaper experience goes away. When you leaf through a paper you may end up reading and learning something about a topic that wasn't on your radar, and be better informed and have a more well rounded view of the issues that form the matrix of our lives. Online, people pick and choose what they want to see, and limit their own options. Without news PAPERS, people decrease their exposure to thoughts that could expand their world view.

I can live without newsprint getting on my hands and furniture though. May be as an inducement to getting readers back, the news industry could find an ink that doesn't leave a mess.

1/16/2015 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

I agree... But then again, I don't miss not being able to stop the blinking 12:00 on my VCR, and remember beta? Cathode Ray Tube TV's, film, mimeograph, carbon paper, typewriters, rotary dial phones, ticker tape, ink cartridges for pens... tactile memories forgotten over the course of a few decades.

Re: exposure: the curious will always seek knowlege, and the lazy will remain ignorant!

1/17/2015 02:09:00 PM  

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