By Kevin Meyer
Two different articles both appearing yesterday and discussing obliquely-similar industries got me to wondering about business models and commitment to those models. How long should an organization stay committed to a model? When should it change? What should trigger change? The meat of the articles is nothing new and simply part of a long-term trend, but the data supporting the trend was just updated.
First off, the Wall Street Journal reported the latest figures on U.S. newspaper circulation.
Average weekday newspaper circulation for the six months ended Sept. 30
dropped nearly 11%, the starkest decline in years anda sign of both the
industry's deepening troubles and its efforts to purposely pare
unprofitable copies. Nearly two-thirds of the 25 largest papers in the U.S. posted circulation declines of 10% or more.
|Wall Street Journal||2,024,269||+0.61%|
|New York Times||927,851||-7.28%|
|Los Angeles Times||657,467||-11.05%|
The guys at the WSJ were probably more than happy to print this data; after all their circulation actually increased and pushed the paper into the number one spot in terms of gross circulation.
Coincidentally The New York Times reported on prime time cable news show ratings.
CNN, which invented the cable news network more than two decades ago,
will hit a new competitive low with its prime-time programs in October,
finishing fourth – and last – among the cable news networks with the
audience that all the networks rely on for their advertising.
||Greta Van Susteren
With the exception of the sharp fall by CNN, these numbers have been relatively steady over the past couple years. CNN did try to create some positive spin.
CNN executives emphasized that the network continues to draw more
viewers than all its competitors except Fox News when all hours of the
day are counted.
So now for my question. If your circulation or prime time programming is falling, what do you do? Do you stick with the original model, perhaps decades old, or change it? If the old model represents a fundamental philosophy, a seemingly moral obligation to report instead of profit, how long do you hold out? Altruism only lasts so long. If you stay true to your beliefs and your passion, is it enough?
Doesn't look like it. So then what?
To be fair, both media industries are trying. The print guys are moving to a focus on niches and paid circulation models.
Publishers say they are concerned less about the total number of copies
they distribute than with reaching a smaller but more select audience
for the printed newspaper. They say this strategy makes the newspaper
more attractive to advertisers and helps publishers generate more
revenue for each copy sold. The Journal also was helped by sales of paid online subscriptions, which few newspapers offer.
The WSJ is pretty much the only paper that has made the paid online model work. On the television news side of things, Fox has led the pack for many years with the shift to primetime opinion shows after hard news during the day. Perhaps the inability of other outlets to understand this shift is analogous to why some still complain that O'Reilly and such aren't news. Even Fox doesn't claim they are and calls them opinion shows.
So what about you? Are you taking the altruistic path and holding onto something unsustainable? Or changing and experimenting?