Heavens! The demise of "mainstream media"?!

Well, not quite. But a site called The Long Tail has compiled some interesting figures :

  • Music: sales last year were down 21% from their peak in 1999
  • Television: network TV’s audience share has fallen by a third since 1985
  • Radio: listenership is at a 27-year low
  • Newspapers: circulation peaked in 1987, and the decline is accelerating
  • Magazines: total circulation peaked in 2000 and is now back to 1994 levels (but a few premier titles are bucking the trend!)
  • Books: sales growth is lagging the economy as whole

On the other hand:

  • Movies: 2004 was another record year, both for theaters and DVDs
  • Videogames: even in the last year of this generation of consoles, sales hit a new record
  • Web: online ads will grow 30% this year, breaking $10 billion (5.4% of all advertising)

Some people keep forecasting the demise—or, at least, the drastic reduction
of—"mainstream media." Some have political animosity to MSM;
others—i.e., the" digerati"—like to emphasize that a lot of attention
has shifted from traditional analog media to digital forms.

Certainly pronouncing the death of mass media (aka, “endism”) is an
exaggeration, but I think the figures do confirm that a significant shift is
well underway. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV are not about to disappear,
but they are likely to be fully digitized and subsumed by the Internet.
What’s more, the Internet’s expansion has enormous sociological implications
because its reach is global; it can accommodate practically an infinite number
of channels; computer-based searching and aggregation add great versatility;
and the low cost of digital production tools is opening it up to an
unprecedented population of contributors. My own analogy of the change afoot is
that the Internet is where TV was in the 1950s (yes, I was there) in its
maturity and impact. In other words, a sea change is indeed underway, but the
greater part is yet to come.

My point, in the context of what this means to the ACS, is that I think
there has been sufficient shift in public attention from traditional media to
online media to warrant shifting more Society resources to active online
communication. It’s time to begin shifting staff resources away from reliance
on press releases and PSAs for the media that are diminishing in public reach.

I’d see it as a positive step to have some of the younger staff of the
agency like Lisa "M" Brown and David Neff working full time on
experimenting with online media and developing strategies. (I’m not kidding
about ACS-TV!) The networked world is going to require relentless innovation
and experimentation. We need to be applying right now the skills and
sensibilities of people attuned to the Net and comfortable with its techniques.
Their time needs to be freed up to do experimental communications.

I’ll let Rupert Murdoch, of all people!, close out these remarks.

The digital revolution is becoming more important as young news consumers
turn away from newspapers and embrace the Web, according to media mogul Rupert
Murdoch at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference Wednesday.
These young news consumers, dubbed "digital natives" by Murdoch,
"have a different set of expectations of the kind of news they will get
… including when and how they will get it, and who they will get it
from." Of the digital natives between the ages of 18 and 34, 44 percent
use the Internet once a day for news, but only 19 percent use printed
newspapers, Murdoch said. "In the face of this revolution, we have been
slow to react. We have sat by and watched while our newspapers have lost
circulation," said Murdoch.