Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is Traditional Media In Canada Dead?

My topic this month is something that is being hotly debated by almost every media outlet in the country and all across North America. Its a question that is on everyone's mind. Is traditional media dying an untimely death?

I personally don’t think so. Just like the telegraph and the morning newspaper media is always in a state of change and the impact of new media on traditional advertising and communications is no different. Let’s just say the amount of attention that new media is getting is making us feel as if traditional media can no longer compete. So in some ways there may be a collective thinking that traditional media is dead. Lets look a some of the facts.

In Canada is safe to say that ad revenues from traditional media are down across the board and online media is definitely on the increase. Newspapers are having the biggest problem securing advertisers since their daily news is reported well in advance on any of the major websites like, MSN Canada, Yahoo Canada and Google. For instance as a dedicated newspaper reader, I now only buy the weekend papers and no long subscribe at the office.

The key area that seems to really be taking a hit is the classified ad sections of most newspapers. With free ad sites like Craig’s List, Kijji and any number of local online and employment sites offering free ads and amazing search options, traditional classified and employment ads are also generating the lowest revenues in years.

National television is also suffering not only from the loss of local ad revenues but from the ever changing role played by cable and satellite in Canada. The two national commercial networks are fighting it out with the cable companies promoting the value of local television as cable and satellite companies now want to charge subscribers extra for the right to watch local news in their areas on their local cable or satellite station. The local news represents the largest number of concentrated local viewers and the most revenues since these local stations retain the rights to sell local advertisers into a well watched local program with a highly consistent and dedicated audience.

The main media that seems to remain stable through all of this is radio. With the advent of television in the 1950’s there was much discussion that the radio was dead or would over time die out. As we can see this did not happen. Every local radio station has a bevy of local listeners who continue to support them regardless of the role new media plays. Everyone has a local favourite radio station for local news and sports and local activities. Satellite radio continues to gain popularity; however local news and weather can only be garnered from stations in the local market. So radio's demise is not going to happen anytime soon. However the Ipod is having a major impact on what individuals listen too and when so the jury is still out.

So what does this mean for the individual or the business organization that has a mission to promote an event, sell a product, promote a new service and meet new customers? In my last column I felt that new media such as Facebook, Tweeting, My Space and blogging all help to build profile and help to create new contacts and some new business opportunities as well.

For me personally however, being active in your local community be it online or offline is still one of most important things a person or a company can do. An online community is great to make contacts if you have product that is national in scope and can be sold over great distances. A local community made up of local businesses, events and organizations are still valuable if you get personal service referrals, provide a local service or need to deal with individuals that in your own back yard.

The key point is traditional media is just changing and as they say on Monty Python it’s not time to "bring out yer dead yet".

The local media revolution is no different than any other media revolution that came along throughout history. These included the printing press changing town hall meetings, the telegraph was replaced by the telephone, couriers were replaced by fax machines and typewriters were replaced by computers and radio was changed immensely by the advent of television. So media and communications is always evolving

The key ingredient for change however is that information will always be required and requested by human beings and will be required in selective ways that still include a great deal of personal activity.

People still buy from people and personal relationships are still the most important thing. Regardless of what happens with traditional ways of communicating there will always be something that is just around the corner that will make it easier and more efficient to get the information you require. So traditional media my be dying as we know it, however most organizations are scrambling to reinvent themselves just like my grand father did when upon graduating from telegraph school he found that the telegraph was about to not exist anymore. Just like him, media and advertising will also make shifts that will include reinventing and becoming more resiliant to change.

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