A little to the left….. a little to the right…. OK… wait….
Technologies have the ability to turn the world upside down without our even noticing.
Not too many years ago, TV signals came into your house through the air, and telephone signals came into your house through a wire.
Today, its pretty much the opposite. Almost all television signals now come into your house through a wire and most telephone calls arrive through the air.
A complete reversal.
The same ‘world turned upside-down’ phenomenon is now starting to take hold in the world of news.
Conventional TV news is in its death throes. Katie Couric announces that she is leaving CBS Evening News after the November elections. Good move, Katie. Perhaps evocative of rats leaving a sinking ship ,but good move never the less,
TV news is on its way out. The numbers (even allowing for Katie’s appalling ones) are universally downward, a trend that is likely to continue. The total cumulative ratings for the three network evening news programs is now less than the total used to be for Cronkite, more than 20 years ago. And the population of the county has increased by nearly 100 million since then.
What is happening?
Quite simply, no one is watching.
And why is no one watching?
Because the content sucks.
Not that news is not important. It is. But the way in which it is delivered has outlived its usefulness.
And not a surprise. The basic format of TV news (the guy at the desk and the ‘now this’ approach has not changed in 50 years) If you have a minute, go over to the Museum of Broadcasting on East 53rd Street in Manhattan and take a look at the Camel Caravan of News. Aside from the black and white, not a whole lot has changed.
If computer design progressed at the same pace as TV News design, I would be writing this on a Compaq the size of a sewing machine and my iPod hard drive would spin at 45rpm.
So TV News is dead. But what will replace it?
This is where there is a really interesting window of opportunity for newspapers, if they have the courage to take it.
Newspapers have always been the bedrock upon which TV news was built. Every TV news production meeting started and ended by combing the papers for stories. And why not? Newspapers traditionally put many more reporters on the street than TV news crews.
As papers move to the web (for their own survival), and the web moves to video, newspapers will also migrate to video. And here’s the window of opportunity.
Television is going to go non-linear, and new video platforms, such as phones, are going to exercise an enormous appetite for instant video content. Non linear video content.
Consumers don’t care who provides the content so long as it is a) accurate and b) high quality and c)immediate.
Here is where newspapers can step in and take the video world away from TV news. They have the stories already, they have the reporting staff, they have the brand. All they lack is the means of production. And in a world of HDV cameras that cost $800 and FCP software that costs that or less, the means or production is at their fingertips.
Ironically, Dirck Halstead, of Platypus fame, sent me an email yesterday detailing how CBS News is now going to demand that all content be shot in HD and will not accept HDV as it is too complex for them to transcode it.
Just another nail in the coffin of CBS TV news.
Do you think viewers (particularly those watching on cell phones) really care if the piece has been shot in HD or HDV? Do you think they can tell?
CBS’s decision simply means that they have cut themselves off from about a million people around the world who could provide them with content and at the same time upped their own cost of production.
(Attention. From now on, all passengers on the Titanic will be required to wear cement underwear).
If newspapers are smart (and we think some of them are pretty smart); and if they can remember their core business is the gathering and distribution of news – not the ink part; they stand a good chance of filling the vacuum that the departing network news operations are about to leave behind.