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This weeks #SocialMedia Tweetchat Topic: Destruction of the Media Industry: Will We Be Better Off In the Long Run?

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Laying out the fundamental issues and challenges in a post has become an integral part of the success of our weekly events.  Usually I produce the post and the moderator comes on Tuesdays and facilitates the discussion.  This week is an exception.  Our moderator, Paul Gillin, has delightfully taken the initiative to not only come up with his own topic, but to construct a post as well.  The following is the guest post by Paul Gillin:

As we head into the second decade of the new millennium, it’s amazing to think how much has changed in such a short time. In January, 2000, few people had heard of Google.  Online advertising was banners and e-mails.  Big media brands dominated the Web. US newspaper ad revenue would hit record levels that year.  Newsroom employment would peak in 2001 as newsstand sales of the top 100 magazines approached 30 million.  No one had heard of blogs.  People used mobile phones to talk.

Fast forward to 2009.  Last year, people spent six billion minutes on Facebook, downloaded one billion YouTube videos and logged over 1.4 million blog entries every day.  The iPhone became the first mobile phone to be used more for data than for voice.  The Internet became the second most popular news medium behind television.  Wikipedia posted its three millionth article.

Meanwhile, US newsroom employment fell to a 25-year low and magazine newsstand sales dropped 63% from of their 2001 peaks.  Reader’s Digest declared bankruptcy.  Comcast said it would buy NBC.

The statistics go on and on. In just 10 years, our century-old mass-market media model has given way to a new structure dominated by the economics of one.  Customers now take their opinions directly to the market.  Woe to organizations that don’t listen.

The contraction of mass-market media has brought plenty of pain.  Tens of thousands of media professionals have lost their jobs in the past two years, crowdsourcing has sent some professional fees into a tailspin and veteran marketers are under threat if they don’t “get” social media.  But is this pain necessary, even beneficial in the long run?

Media has historically been one of the least efficient disciplines on the planet. It’s a profession that declares success if only 97% of its audience ignores an ad or tosses the mailer into the trash. It gains one customer at the expense of annoying 50 bystanders. When department store magnate John Wanamaker said half his ad dollars were wasted, but “I don’t know which half,” he was being generous.

The new Internet has flipped the economics. As media control has passed from institutions to individuals, waste has begun to be worked out of the system. The cost of reaching a targeted customer will only decline in the years to come.  Sadly, efficiency will also devastate those industries and professions that thrived on media’s historical inefficiency.

There’s no question we’re in a period of media destruction, but is this a necessary precursor to a better world?  Today, everyone can be the media.  That means we have unprecedented access to information from all points of view, but we’ve also lost our sense of whom to trust.  Is ubiquitous access to unlimited information a blessing or a curse?  What will we be saying about his period a decade from now?

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That’s a great foundation for this week’s topic.  I’ll add a couple of thoughts directed squarely at the corporate side of this discussion that relate to content, trust and brands.

Today anyone can produce content and distribute to a potentially sizeable market.  The capabilities are ubiquitous and the cost is next to nothing.  With so much content now available, many forms of content quickly become commoditized and thereby become almost irrelevant.  With that, think about your company for a minute and the brand/s you represent.  These brands are usually strongest when consumers view them as a resource for their specified purpose whether it’s household cleaning, motor oil lubrication, exercise equipment or anything else. 

Since commoditized content is counter-intuitive to your brand strategies, aggregating stuff (content) just so you have more stuff does not fit with most corporate objectives.  Whether it’s for your customers, employees or partners, you want them to come to you as a resource for trusted content rather than as an aggregator of everything. 

Harnessing appropriate and relevant content as a resource for your customers / audience is becoming a significant differentiator in the market. 

Topic:  Destruction of the Media Industry: Will We Be Better Off In the Long Run?

Q1:  Does the proliferation of new media make us more informed or just more confused?

Q2:  Can businesses and institutions legitimately fill some of the trust gap that’s been created by the collapse of media institutions?

Q3:  Can armies of bloggers and citizen journalists fill the void left by the loss of media institutions?

So the chat will take place Tuesday 2/9/10 at noon EST.  Participate by following #sm46.

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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