The media business facing the innovator's dilemma?…

The media business is facing a challenging competitive market, but instead of the traditional competition from a small number of long-established competitors, the competitive landscape is changing. 

As Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“American journalism is no longer a castle, and you are no longer the serf who cannot breach its walls. The castle doors have been forced open. Other voices have access. Bloggers for instance don’t just walk in and out, they have offices in the castle walls.”

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know that I am a passionate believer in incremental change.  It’s rare for a new development to completely change or displace an incumbent – regardless of the hyperbole.  Instead the new entrant normally takes its place alongside the establishment. Blogs are no different in this regard. Blogs won’t remove the need for traditional media but they are extending the spectrum. I’ve been writing this blog for three years and I still consume newspapers, magazines, radio and TV (as well as innumerous other blogs).

Blogs have created an innovator’s dilemma for the media business.  They (and other technologies such as RSS, podcasting etc.) have emerged because first and foremost they have lowered the barriers to entry. Secondly mainstream media have for the most part, become staid and homogenous, reporting broadly the same news and events.  Blogs on the other hand tackle far more diverse issues and topics and of course provide a wider spectrum of opinion – though this may or may not be good depending on your point of view.

The major challenge for the media business is that as blogs become widely adopted there will be a change in the media mix.  If a consumer reads blogs then they are likely to still read newspapers and magazines, watch TV and listen to the radio – but it’s also likely that the proportionate mix will change.  Perhaps the consumer will reduce TV time or read a smaller number of magazines.  That’s the challenge.

For Public Relations practitioners the challenge is about understanding that mix.  You need to understand where your audience is and how they are finding information. Once you have that valuable information, you need to use it wisely and communicate using the tools your audience prefer. This is why it is so important that this profession steps up and embraces the changes taking place online.

For the media business it’s time to innovate.  It’s time to understand your audience, what parts of your business are meeting your customers’ needs and what elements need to evolve and adapt to the changes happening around you.

There’s no reason why the large media incumbents can’t continue to be successful and prosperous, however one thing is for sure, the competitive environment is extending far beyond the simple measures of ratings and circulation. It’s time to embrace change and meet the market. Ignoring these changes will create a whole new generation of extinct companies.


Thanks to Dee Rambeau for the link to Peggy Noonan’s column.