I attended a fascinating conference of about 30 TV news directors and TV internet managers this last week.
Bottom line message from the conference? TV news is dying, and the internet is rapidly taking its place.
It wasn’t exactly the sort of message that someone who’s spent his last 35 years in TV news wants to hear, but the trend seems undeniable. Nationwide, viewers of nightly newscasts are declining, and the number of those who get their news primarily from the internet is rapidly increasing.
In fact, young people, under the age of 30, are now more likely to get their news from the internet than from TV. And yes, many of them get it from Facebook and Twitter.
Contrast that with the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, when frequently the entire family sat around the TV at night and watched the nightly newscasts. Doesn’t happen much anymore.
The trend for news has been likened to books. Years ago, everybody bought their hardbacks and paperbacks at bookstores; now, E-readers are soaring in popularity. Borders, once a stalwart of the industry, has gone out of business.
How about Blockbuster? Everybody used to get their movies there, but no longer. Out of business. Increasingly we stream your movies.
Remember Tower Records? It was huge. That’s where you got your records, then your tapes, then your CD’s. Now, nothing. Gone. We download our music from the internet.
So is TV news (along with newspapers) going the way of Borders, Blockbuster and Tower Records?
Could be. Newspapers and TV stations across the country are frantically trying to make the transition to the internet. Their websites are becoming more robust, more and more of their resources are being devoted to their websites, and TV management is trying desperately to more effectively “monetize” the web. So far, what they’ve found is that selling commercials on air is a lot more lucrative that selling them online.
But they know the trendlines. The question for them is when do they sacrifice the easy, short term gain for the long term gain? If they keep putting it off, they’ll likely be left in the dust by more courageous and forward-thinking TV stations and newspapers.
The question for journalists is the same: We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years, even the last 10 years, because in another 10 years, we’ll likely be dinosaurs waiting for the meteor to hit.