This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us

I said draw….

It turns out that they’re both in the same business.

Newspapers and local TV news stations.

They both go out into the community, find stories, process them and then distribute them back to the community, charging for the ads that accompany them.

For a long time, their paths barely crossed.

I say barely because TV stations generally started their day by opening the local paper to find out what stories to cover. But beyond that, not much.

All that is over.

All that is over because of the web.

Both papers and local TV news are gravitating to the web as a platform of distribution. And why not? For papers it means getting rid of presses, ink, printers, paper and all the costs associated with distribution.  And it puts you in every home on the planet all the time pretty much for free. Kind of irresistable.

Ten years ago, it became clear that you could ‘publish’ a paper on the web.  Around the same time, sites like Craigslist began to strip out classifieds.  J-date began to strip out personals.  Later places like Huffington began to strip out editorials!  Papers were in the fight of their lives and they started to come to grips with it.

TV was smug. They never imagined that the web could one day carry TV shows and TV news.


Happened yesterday.

So papers have a lead, in a way, in terms of dealing with this. And one of the ways that they are learning to deal with this is to incorporate video in their reporting. And why not? It’s not hard to do. It’s pretty compelling.  And when the web carries video (as it does) any local newsgatherer would be remiss not carry video. So they’re moving there.

As they do, they suddenly find that they are fast becoming head-to-head competitors with local TV news.

Because now, local TV is just starting to come to grips with the web as a better platform for distribution as well. Infinite homes, 24.7, no cable, no transmission towers, VOD all the time. Non linear. It works.

And as both papers and TV move to the web, they begin to find themselves running into each other. In terms of stories. In terms of content. And in terms of advertisers.

In the end, probably only one will survive.

But which one?

Newspapers have some advantages: they are leaner and far better newsgathering machines.  They put more reporters on the streets every day.  They are better at making volume. Take a local TV newscast and print it out and you probably have a page and a half in the paper.  The web demands reams of content, updated all the time.

Newspapers have some disadvantages:  They are still married to the presses and the ink and the delivery vans.  And they have to learn video.

But TV stations also have their own mixed bag. They know how to make video, but they do it in a very expensive and cost-ineffective way. Can they change?  Unknown.  Also, TV stations, as they migrate to the web will have to put many more reporters on the streets to compete with the local papers. Can they do it? Unknown. Finally, as they move to the web, local TV stations will have to provide reams of text, as the web does both text and video. Do they have the writing skills?  Not yet.

It’s gonna be a hard fought battle. Newspapers are not about roll over and die so fast. They have a pretty long tradition in this country. And there is a lot at stake – local news is always a money maker, and the local stories and the local advertisers are aplenty, with money to spend.

I would not count the papers out yet. As Gary Cooper says:

‘You’ll never hang me. I’ll come back. I’ll kill you, Will Kane. I swear it, I’ll kill you.’


18 responses to “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us

  1. Newspapers have the advantage in personnel costs – TV started paying inflated salaries when Dan Rather’s agent tossed a crazy number at CBS when Walter Cronkite was retiring. Ever since, TV stations have been spending a large percentage of their personnel costs on beauty contestants instead of reporters.

    News needs reporters, not beauty contestants. Not saying that reporters can not be attractive; but they should be reporters first.

  2. so while you encourage newspapers and TV stations to shoot at each other your good pal Gary Vaynerchuck runs off with the audience?

    nice one Michael: stick it to the man, who cares which boardroom he’s sitting in.

    I don’t think I’ve found a teacher I admire so much since Jack Black in School of Rock.

  3. …local news is always a money maker, and the local stories and the local advertisers are aplenty, with money to spend.

    I would go so far as to drill it down to hyperlocal news, depending on the size of the community. With internet content distribution, you can take a section of a community and develop targeted advertising – even going so far as to have a particular slant on the news and cater to businesses that hold that particular viewpoint Prime example – localized alternative publications that offer alternative viewpoints on local news topics).

    I don’t believe localized mainstream broadcast news media has much of a chance in competing with local newspapers with their ability to not only produce text and still images (along with audio slide shows), but their move to video makes them a more formidable force as compared to the all the eggs in one basket approach that is mainstream broadcast media (best example of how to do it – Local TV broadcast stations just don’t have the staff and budgets to compete with newspapers – especially if those stations read the morning paper to get their story ideas.

    Maybe those hair and teeth people will actually have to apply those journalism degree’s by putting on a pair of jeans and walking shoes and beat the streets so to speak to develop and report news stories that will be of interest to the community. Get rid of all the BS broadcast news gear and on camera talent, strip them down to the essentials and produce more informative content that is of interest to the community – not the same pablum repeated on each of the local affiliates newscasts.

    It has been said that content is king. I personally think that statement should be rephrased – Entertaining Informative Content is King. Bring that to the table and that will probably keep them coming back – no matter what the subject – and in turn create potential ad revenue.

  4. Cliff,

    I think I understand that last statement ….. as meaning that web content needs to be presented in a way that keeps viewers. TV News formula…. supposedly does everything to keep viewers….. quick packages….good looking anchors….teases…flashy graphics and a live presence. Content loses out to Style. If you want that approach…then TV news does it well.

    I think news and journalism should go beyond HYPE and gimmicks….and simply present quality content… craft, creativity and committment. Not splash, trash, bleeding leading quick live graphic ridden infobites from the newspaper and predictable infotainment. I think viewers can be drawn to a more mature, sophisitcated video news program. Will newspapers find that type of program…. I think so. I certainly would love to design the new “model” because it would take the best of all….and model them into one program.

    My points have been focused on “news” and “journalism.” In a broad context…. Content is king. People watch what content they want to watch. Whether its a cartoon, or a documentary, or a rock concert, or a comedy sketch. Content can be described in as many different ways as there are categories to describe life. (Sad, funny, serious, sexy, stupid, silly, happy, beautiful, horrific, important, irrelevant, emergent, pertenant, etc…) Pornography is a big seller. Probably bigger than news. Is that entertaining ? Some say yes, some say no. It is probably not so much entertainment… as it is arrousing. So while that content draws a ton of men…. its not necessarily entertaining, nor news.

    My focus is news.

    Journalism content is probably best described in journalism codes of ethics. I define “news” or “journalism” as “information that BENEFITS SOCIETY.” That is my untested definition.

    Entertainment is not news. Yet news can be entertaining.

    So you should not necessarily lock in the definition of journalism or news as needing to be “entertaining.” Locking in one definition… excludes others …. that might not be entertaining…such as war coverage, sexual crimes, murders, etc…. To make those horrific stories “entertaining” is exploitative…which is exactly what local news has been accused of. And its wrong.

    “Content is King” That applies to all communications….because whether its entertainment, or news, people watch what they want to watch.

    When it comes to “Journalism” the question is … journalism with a “capitol J” or with a “small j” Ethics are the difference. Those who serve the public’s best interests…. are doing journalism with a capitol J. And that should not be “entertaining” unless the subject matter is itself entertaining. And many subjects are not entertaining.

    But if you want to get ratings at any and all costs (which many TV stations seem to be doing….)
    THEN you make everything appear entertaining. You will sex up stories, teases. You will hire sexy reporters with little journalism experience. You will pay money to get content. You will promote stories simply to get ratings….disrespecting or ignoring the “best interests” of society in favor of getting viewers.

    If you want viewers (as we say)…… you can ignore ethics and serving the public. How far do you want to go? It’s a bottomless pit. And many outlets are sinking down that pit.

    So…. I recommend not trying to fence in a definition of “content” when discussing news. That is what ethics codes are written for. Read those to understand what kind of content you should put on your news programs. I hope that perspective helps.

  5. Good point eb – I don’t think I was accurate in my posting surrounding the rephrasing comment.

    It could be said one persons entertainment is another’s boring content. Just as I watch quite a few documentaries these days – some are entertaining – for me that equates to being informative with a solid flow that keeps me interested – that’s the entertaining part for me. Other docs have lost me within the first 5 minutes due to a lack of solid intro content that keeps me interested.

    My interests lie is solid story telling important topics that have a certain level of entertainment – as opposed to the pablum served up to the masses of sheeple who want to find out about celebrities personal lives and such.

    My bad for not having been more accurate in my initial response.

  6. Yes, media programmers and video producers need to understand that one person’s entertainment is another persons boring content.

    In the past, “Broad” casters produced content that was written and produced for broad audiences. That is probably why TV news is cookie cutter, predictable and vanilla. Because it is safe. It gets enough viewers.

    But will that change? Will it remain cookie cutter? Or will there be some bold creativity? Will “broad” casting still have an audience? Or will thousands of “niche” content providers fractionalize audiences so much that it will mean the end to broadcasters?

    Will TV News have to start being a bit more creative? Newspapers have already gotten that message… and are working dilegently on their website presentations.

    Are TV stations gambling that their presentation will continue to hold enough viewers? Or do they need to develope a new model? 😉

  7. eb – one of the more adult conversations I’ve had on this blog in a very long time 😉

    Are TV stations gambling that their presentation will continue to hold enough viewers? Or do they need to develope a new model?

    From what I’ve seen so far – I don’t think TV broadcast news – either nationally and especially at the local level – has a clue as to how to stave off the inevitable continued paring down that is already ensuing.

    Newspapers are going to capitalize on the internet and utilize resources that aren’t available to mainstream broadcast news media and it will be more than likely that broadcast will be playing catch up with regards to original content for the web.

    Once again I say – Prove me wrong – and yet – not one detractor has done so.

    I’m of the belief that internet content distribution is the future and will pare down the medium to more evenly matched entities that will force them to actually have to compete with one another. Imagine that…

    The detractors lament at how they feel short coursed and self taught Solo VJ’s have no business doing what we do since we didn’t start out in their exclusive club – as far as I can see, by NOT being a part of that closed culture, one isn’t tainted by conventions that only repeat the same boring material being shot the same cookie cutter way. Training is important, but when it gets in the way of developing solid informational content that is also entertaining, that’s the rub for me.

    Certain detractors have ranted that I’m the enemy as far as they’re concerned because of my position about broadcast news. Content as it’s currently be done by mainstream broadcast news is not much better than much of the content I see on the video sharing sites. OTOH, I’m seeing some solid content that puts so called professional broadcast shooters to shame being done with consumer cameras and a willingness to take chances in how stories are being shot. There’s alot of garbage, but there’s also alot of good content being created. The challenge I have with broadcast news media is that they should be the standard bearers for content – it’s a sad commentary when so called untrained shooters are beginning to produce content that surpasses that of the so called top level shooters. And it’s only going to get better and more unique as the profession matures.

    Broadcast news has made its bed as far as I’m concerned and until I can be shown otherwise, my position stands.

  8. And what have YOU done, Cliff?

  9. I haven’t worked in the broadcast business, so I’m making no predictions about what happens to TV. I have spent almost 30 years working with newspapers and I see little evidence that the industry has figured out enough of the internet that the vast majority of newspapers will survive in anywhere near their current form. A few are doing things right, but only a few. The New York Times and Washington Post are two doing it right, but they are still suffering financially. The Las Vegas Sun has a great web site and just hired Rob Curley, the guru for newspapers online. But it and the other Vegas paper have been in a JOA for years, a sign perhaps that there have been financial issues already there.

    For many newspapers, especially on the coasts, the future is immediately bleak. A few years to learn new markets and hone new skills may not be available. The fractionalization of the audience will play a role, but it isn’t just that. It is old men and old thinking and, as Monty Python once said, blinkered pig-ignorance. The paper I work at seems hell-bent on doing everything wrong. Given the choice between the security of the known and the risks that might lead to survival, lots of those making decisions at newspapers seem to prefer safe over survive. They might dabble in new things, but they won’t over-commit because that wouldn’t be prudent. When I hear the losses at some papers (mine has lost about one-third of its revenue in the last two years), prudence seems kind of late. Industry predictions say those losses will accelerate.

    Some might argue that we just have bad managers at my place, but those who play the stock market seem to think this is industry-wide. McClatchey, which purchased much of the Knight-Ridder chain just three years ago, has lost 80 percent of its stock value since that purchase. Two other major chains have shed nearly 70 percent in the same time frame.

    I see plenty of evidence that traditional broadcast media is doing everything wrong. But newspapers are a BROADCAST media. Our product is one-size-fits-all. I hope I am wrong, but I see little evidence that newspapers (as a whole) are going to “capitalize on the internet” in some special way during the near term. And for many newspapers, there may not be a long term.

  10. Cliff has been doing this:

    What can I say about Cliff, he can’t shoot, can’t edit… is there nothing he can’t can’t do?

    Keep practicing Cliff, one day you might get it.

  11. Thanks Cliff!

    Always nice to here a person pontificate about something they know nothing about.

    How is your unemployed life, living under that bridge of your choosing, yelling at the corporate world about how everything is so unjust and you know how to do it all?

    It sure would be nice if YOU could prove you know what you think you do by getting someone to hire you somewhere, anywhere, shooting and editing video.

    So far? No go for you.

  12. $ – As noted sometime ago – you must feel that I think what you have to say as being important – you are sadly mistaken.


  13. Stewart – I’ll repeat what I said to $ directly above and apply it to you as well

    you must feel that I think what you have to say as being important – you are sadly mistaken.

  14. pencilgod – I’ll state it in a different way for all detractors to read and hopefully comprehend:

    The detractors appear to be under the false idea of having self importance and thinking that I (or any other supporter of the solo vj paradigm) actually taking stock in what they say about any solovj or the work we create as being important…

    They are greatly mistaken.

  15. It’s not what we say that’s important Cliff.

    It’s what we make.

    A regular paycheck, shooting and editing video.

    Something you stil have been unable to achieve despite your long support of the “vj paradigm”, you want to ignore basic economic realities that all people live with. Bills to pay and needing a job that will supply the money to pay those bills.

    Don’t give up your day job and enjoy your VJ hobby!

  16. Must be awful lonely there in your parents’ rec room, Cliff.

  17. TV stations still make money. They still employ. They still shoot and edit and persent the daily news. So does network news…and CNN and FOX, etc…

    There is no disputing that television newscasts still do get enough viewers to sustain a business. The question isn’t whether or not they currently serve the public and have viewers. TV news Does. And they do video very well. Better than newspapers.

    The question I raised…was about the future.

    Will TV news need to make bold changes…. or keep producing the same sort of product?

    Newspapers are currently more aggressive on their websites…. and learning how to create and present multimedia and video. They will soon (five years) start developing programming, I predict.

    In 10 years… TV and the Internet become one.

    At THAT point…. viewers will then have a choice to watch what ever news website they want… So that is when the competition begins.

    Are TV stations learning enough now? Are they innovative now? Or do they need to get more aggressive?

    And on the other hand…. do those solo VJs…. with small cameras…. realize that viewers with High Definition TV screens…. big ones…. will not be able to stand watching poorly shot video…. unless the content is so outstanding.

    Quality does matter, and it will. Do Solo VJs understand that?

    Yet so does a multimedia, multi faceted approach to presenting news and info. Do TV stations understand that?

  18. Cliff, After seeing this link to some of your work from Pencilgod, I decided to take a look.

    I’m confused Cliff. I thought you claimed VJ was going to offer something different. Something better.

    What you produced was anything but.

    How was what you did any different than what appeared on some local tv station?

    The only reason it got posted to Huffington is because you gave it to the for free. Not because of the quality of your work. You didn’t get paid at all for this. Which does not surprise me.

    Why do you make wild claims about how VJs are going to do things so much better but even you can’t prove what you say with your own work.

    A long predictable story with nothing different or new. The level of quality and ability was not very good. Even you made excuses in your own post about it. Practice work at it’s best.

    Why, after all these years, are you still not able to do the kind of VJ work that you promote?

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