Is “old media” dead?

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In an online forum, recently, a poster made the observation that “old media is dead.” Hmmm. I can understand the sentiment. After all, it seems like every day we hear about some media outlet that is either downsizing or shutting down completely and we all “know” that *nobody* reads newspapers anymore… But, I’m skeptical. In fact, I have a feeling that “old media” may eventually be reincarnated.

I predict that “uncontrolled media” will emerge for a while but eventually the public (particularly the “lazy masses” who don’t have the time or inclination to “fact check” on their own) will clamor for some form of “gatekeeper” system (e.g. the major media and professional journalists/editors).

A recent article in btobonline (May 4, 2009) listed the “Media Power 50” – the Wall Street Journal was still on top of the business press – and, in fact, seeing growth in subscriptions. It wasn’t the only business publication that is. In the same issue, Paul Gillin, “New Media Strategist” suggests in his column that web sites hire “some top business journalists…(they’re cheap right now)” to run their organizations’ web sites as a means of addressing the “historic collapse of traditional media.”

Again, I’m skeptical. Seems to make some sense on the surface, but there is still an unavoidable, implicit bias in this type of approach. Why should I, Joe/Jill public believe what *any* company says on its web site, regardless of the caliber of journalist hired to say it?

We’re already seeing plenty of rumblings over poor quality of content, poor writing, inaccuracies, plaigarism, misrepresentation, etc., etc. These issues will only accelerate and will eventually, I predict, result in a shift back (to what degree, who knows?) toward the “old model” of journalism.

Sure it’s great that “anyone” can be a writer, an editor or publisher, but there is a need (IMO) to have a system that instills some sense of trust and credibility in what we’re reading/seeing/hearing.

I know media companies are struggling. I know the current model is certainly not working for all. But, what does the future hold? Is “uncontrolled media” the answer? I don’t think so.

(Linda Pophal is CEO/owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, a firm that helps clients use strategy to address their communication challenges.)

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