A Tale of One City

In 1942, the economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the terms creative destruction. He was describing what happens when inovation radically changes the groundrules of how an industry works. Those who thought they had a monopoly, or a lock on an industry suddenly find themselves in a completely new world due to the introduction of a new technology.

The ‘creative’ part we all get… it’s the ‘destructive’ part no one wants to pay attention to.

The web is such a technology. It brings content into everyone’s home, 24 hours a day, pretty much for free. Compare that to cutting down trees, printing a newspaper, putting them in trucks and delivering them door to door every morning. That’s a pretty good competitive advantage. (And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Just ask papers who used to dine off the classifieds how they feel about Craig’s list). Or compare iTunes to Tower Records…. (or what used to be Tower Records).

That same miracle technology can now bring your local TV news station into people’s homes 24 hours a day, without the need for pushing it through the air, (or having to wait until news at 5pm). It also brings the local newspaper. That’s a pretty interesting turn of events.

Suddenly, the newspaper and the local TV station are competing head to head for the same viewsers (viewer+user, online). And the same advertisers. With the same stories.

Hmmmm

In one pretty big west coast city, the local paper used to put 75 print reporters on the street every day. The local TV news station used to put 8 crews on the same streets every day. That was OK, because the paper and the TV news did not really compete head to head. They were different media. And of course, it was not just in one theoretical west coast city. It was that way in every city in the country.

In those days, (before the web), the local TV news station used to start their mornings by going through the local paper to find stories to report on for the day. That would take place at the morning meeting at the TV station. Every local TV station worked in this way. In fact, for local TV news, an assignment editor’s worst nightmare was the threat of a newspaper strike.

The reason that local TV news takes their lead from the paper is because the paper fields so many more reporters than the local tv news – they actually cover the city. The local TV news simply turns those stories into television…. plus the police scanner and a few press conferences and you are done. (You don’t see a whole lot of local newspaper starting the day at the assignment desk by screening last night’s local news.)

Now, because of the web, local TV news and local newspapers are in the same exact business, or soon will be.

Because when the paper goes to the web, it has to have video.

It has to have it because the web carries video and video is a good reporting tool.

It does not mean that all of the paper’s website will suddenly become video. When local TV news stations create a website, most of their website is in fact in text. Take a look. It doesn’t mean that they have suddenly become a paper! The web demands a mix of video and text, and both will have it. In the end, there will be no difference. They are going to be head to head competitors.

And that takes us back to our west coast city. Out there, the local paper is aggresively moving to both the web and video on the web. Of their 75 reporters on the streets, they have already equipped 25 of them with video cameras. Soon it will be more. Gannett has already started a VJ bootcamp to train their own corps of VJs.

The local TV station, on the other hand, just cannot seem to comprehend the shape of the future – nor the very real threat they are faced with, and the speed with which they must respond… which is pretty funny, as they start each day reading the local paper in their newsroom. Maybe they are missing the biggest story the paper has to tell….

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3 responses to “A Tale of One City

  1. when that “one city’s” digital media outlets forevermore refer to their WEB CHANNEL instead of a mere website, you’ll know they heard you.

  2. Welcome to the blogosphere Rosenblum. You deliver great stuff from the very first entry!

    I see that you again and again are stressing the advantages of the print culture in the head to head competition with tv-stations. I agree with a lot of what you say, but I see differences between what you describe and what we experience in some European countries.

    In Norway, for example, regional tv-stations are a lot more based on vjs. Radiojournalists have been converted to vjs at a great scale the last 5-6 years. I think you could see that on your visit in Bodø last Octobre.

    This in fact give the tv-stations a forehand in the competition with the up-coming mediahouses. It will be interesting to watch what happening here for the next few years.

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