JOURNALISTS have been warned they cannot be spectators if they are to survive the new world of media fragmentation and digitalisation — an environment dubbed a “perfect storm”.
The impact of new technologies in the world of journalism is a global phenomenon. More than 12,000 journalists have lost their jobs so far, and I think, we are only at the very beginning.
The report warns that we could see the collapse of the biggest media companies in the US in the very near future. This is disturbing, but certainly believable in light of recent events not just with GM, but also Citigroup. GE, the parent company for NBC/Universal is apparently in trouble, largely owing to its exposure through GE Capital, but also due to reduced expectations for ad revenues in ’09 due to the global slowdown. Deep cuts are already predicted at NBC, but that may only be a harbinger of what other US media groups will have to face in the next few months.
As the shakedown continues, and consolidation mounts, those remaining in their cubicles will have to produce even more content for the same amount of pay. The media business, and in particular, the news business is fundamentally a manufacturing business. We make the product that we sell every day.
Unlike the car companies, we do not have the luxury of reducing inventory – because air time must be filled. Newspapers can cut back on the number of pages they print, reducing their newsprint costs, but they also reduce ad space – and the attractiveness of buying the paper. In the onair and online world, there is almost no cost savings in reducing output – only in cutting the cost of manufacture.
This can be done, but it means fewer people doing more work, and for the same pay.
This is going to happen.
The best thing that those who are in the business now, or contemplating it as a carreer can do is to prepare themselves for a world of vastly higher productivity and far lower per unit costs. When it comes to axing existing employees, the last to go will the the ones who put the most product on the screen (TV or computer or both) at the lowest possible cost.
Cruel, you bet.
But all too real.