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Media Companies Forced to Reallocate, Realign, Refocus

Many media companies have discovered that times are changing and they are changing quickly. In order to keep up with the times and to remain profitable, companies have had to change their way of doing business. From local television channels, to cable channels and even newspapers, crucial decisions were made that produced much-needed adjustments for their business models.

The way people view shows and movies has changed. “Cutting the cord” is the catch-phrase used by people who are getting rid of cable TV in exchange for an antenna. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase over and over again. I decided to join the club too. Once my Direct TV reached what I felt was an insane amount, it was time for a change. Plus, I realized that I just didn’t watch much television. Instead of paying to watch television shows, my viewing habits changed. I’m satisfied with whatever show or movie is shown through our antenna-powered television. 

The television industry is facing some big dilemmas. How does it stay relevant and profitable? Similar to how the print industry had to adjust to the immediacy that television brings, TV is now having to make some critical adjustments. TV is constantly fighting the digital realm and all it is offering to customers.

Instead of traditional television viewing, apps seem to be the way television is now connecting to its viewers. I constantly hear on-air promotions and other advertisements promoting the use of the apps. However, I find it interesting that channels are constantly promoting their apps, but many require users to have a cable TV account. That sort of defeats the purpose of cutting the cord right? I haven’t really figured that one out yet. But that’s a blog post for another day! There are free apps and websites that allow viewers to watch some pretty good content. For example, on Christmas Eve I was able to watch the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the Freebie app, while other apps wanted me to pay.  I do realize that the same show was on-air through the antenna on the local NBC affiliate, but I appreciated the convenience of watching it at the time I chose.

Big businesses that appreciate the benefit of digital products such as apps are getting into the game too. But not just with their own company app. Last year, communications giant Verizon ran a promotion that had people talking and downloading! Its special promotion partnered with Disney to give one free year of access to Disney+ certainly attracted millions of customers. It also created a lot of chatter on social media. People were sharing the offer and talking about the shows and movies they couldn’t wait to see on the streaming channel. The move was so popular that Netflix shares fell after Verizon’s announcement. Partnerships like the one between Verizon and Disney create even more competition among traditional television and streaming networks.

It’s not unheard of to pay for digital access. Many websites charge to view what they describe as premium content. From newspapers to entertainment sites, this is how they bring in revenue.  While sports apps like ESPN want you to pay for certain access, some companies do appreciate the need to give customers something for free. Bloomberg’s Ira Boudway and Max Chafkin pointed out in an article called “ESPN Has Seen the Future of TV and They’re Not Really Into It” that even CBS and Turner Broadcasting allow some viewing online for free.

Of course we like free video content. But what about news stories? Should there be a paywall there when you click on the story that stops you from reading the details? It frustrates me when I see a headline while I’m scrolling on social media and I’m asked to pay to view it. At first I start thinking about how unfair it is to readers to post it on a public forum and then ask for money. But I have to remember that I once worked in a newsroom and the content is valuable. 

Reporters spend lots of time doing interviews and writing their stories. Shouldn’t their content be considered a product for sale? I’ve heard the argument that reporters are paid a salary, so they are compensated for their work. But you have to think about any other business. They pay employees to produce a product that is then sold to consumers. It’s the same concept. Nonetheless, it’s a frustrating process for readers. And I have to wonder if the paywall really brings in enough revenue to justify losing page views and possibly readers.

Newspaper websites are where I tend to run into the paywall most. Newspapers have had to adjust, just like television to remain relevant. Moving content online seems to be the key. Instead of being a print company, they are now multimedia companies. However,  if you commit to being a multimedia company, you must produce multimedia elements that compliment your product. That doesn’t mean posting print stories on the website. It means adding audio, video, interactive graphics or other multimedia options to the package online.

During my days as an online editor at the newspaper in the mid-2000s, one of my job duties was to ensure that reporter stories made it online. Digital was new and reporters questioned if it was really important. Most reporters saw it as just another “thing to do” and not necessarily essential to the news cycle. Fortunately, I had prior experience as a web journalist and knew the difference it could make in coverage and our reputation as a news leader. There were some early adopters, but for others (typically older members of the newsroom), it was a hard task to complete.

Fast forward to 20 years later and digital platforms are not only necessary, but expected for a newspaper to remain relevant. Digital platforms also level the playing field. Newspapers no longer have to wait to publish their investigations or breaking news it uncovers. It has the same opportunity as television and radio. The print industry has had to refocus and reallocate its efforts. This industry is not alone. Other media companies have had to adapt so that they can continue to produce revenue. 


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