Nov 19, 2010

The importance of earnestly developing an audience

The latest doom and gloom forecast for traditional media came via a recent  Harris Interactive poll, which found that more than 55% of adults in the U.S. believe that traditional media will no longer exist as we know it in ten years.

I’d ask a different set of questions.  Like do you think there will be interest in investigative reporting 10 years from now?  Or, are you likely to want to see local news in the next ten years?  How about in-depth news analysis?  Or are you interested in watching more news in video format?

The overwhelming answer to these questions would have been yes.  And these are parts of the franchise that traditional media has not yet lost.  In fact the same poll found that 67% of respondents prefer to get their news via such traditional sources as newspapers, television and print magazines.

So the most important issue is not whether or not we are going to see continued circulation and TV ratings declines but whether the media properties that operate these delivery vehicles are going to continue to be recogized and followed as a source for this information.

Why did tradional media lose its preeminent position as a supplier of weather forecasts, sports scores, stock prices and classified ads?  It’s because more timely and comprehensive services were created to supply this information.  But it’s also because media companies did not create these new services, focusing instead on their traditional distribution vehicles.

So my advice for media companies:  worry about building your audience, not your circulation.   They do not have to be synonymous.  There is a strong demand and a lot of interest in what you do and you are in a better position than most to do it.  You can expand your audience even as your circulation or broadcast market share declines.  But you have to focus on putting your content where news consumers are looking rather than trying to push them to where you want them to go.  If you, do the future can look pretty good.

Authored by Ken Dowell, executive vice president, PR Newswire.

Image via LiebeDich on Flicker Creative Commons

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