What you need to know:
- Public interest. Does the media know that the same social media being accused of stealing readers and viewers from traditional media provides vital information by which we can understand what the public likes being informed about and so can adjust its content to engage better with these readers?
Last Sunday, I wrote about the existential crisis facing print newspapers and magazines in the 21st Century digital economy and production system.
I did not get a single comment, SMS text message, social media inbox message or phone call from a single reporter, editor or manager of a print media house or any kind of media house.
Now, I’m not saying editors and media owners and managers are under any obligation to respond to me or other columnists every time we write something.
But this particular column was directly about the media, its present crisis of falling circulation and a clearly endangered future.
The silence from the media over a topic that should be of critical interest to its very survival is further proof of the crisis facing the media and its inability to respond to it.
It gave fresh insight into why the legacy media, legacy publishing, legacy business and anything built over the last 100 years is being disrupted by the brilliantly fast and innovative digital technology companies.
The narrative since 2007 has been that online platforms like Google, Craig’s List, Facebook and others are disrupting traditional media by unfairly aggregating their news content and distributing it for free, in effect earning revenue that should have gone to these magazines and newspapers.
There have been many loud calls for this situation to be re-dressed. For some time I thought that too, but I’m now starting to wonder at the media’s collective mindset.
Perhaps the media is seeing steep falls in circulation not just because more and more people are now reading newspapers and magazines online, but because of another, totally different reason that has nothing to do with Facebook and Google.
After all, the decline in circulation of newspapers and magazines began before Facebook was founded and the decline in revenue started before Facebook had earned its first advertising dollar.
Could it be that the media itself is slow, unimaginative, too set in its way to compete with the Internet?
Certainly, this past week would seem to suggest so. I have had firsthand experience of this.
On Facebook or Twitter when one publishes a photo, article, personal; post or video, the response is almost instant. Within minutes, the first likes, shares, comments and re-tweets have started pouring in.
Granted, most comments on social media could do with better grammar and better writing. But at least the response is immediate.
With traditional print media, I’m still waiting a week later for the first response from the media establishment.
The media whose very future is in question, rather than respond to an article by one of its own regarding that uncertain future, devotes much of its publishing page space to the intrigues within the state security system, the fall and trials of a former District Police Commander, the infighting within some political parties, and so on.
Do our newspapers realise that the reading public is starting to get tired of the intrigues within the government? Does it know that there is a way to measure public interest in any topic?
Does the media know that the same social media being accused of stealing readers and viewers from traditional media provides vital information by which we can understand what the public likes being informed about and so can adjust its content to engage better with these readers in print?
The media should use some of its own page space to discuss the future of this important industry.
And, it should start to become more responsive to feedback and new information.
Facebook: Kampala Express