Is TV next victim of the Internet (and why newspapers should care)?


I finally read an article that said TV might soon face the same business issues – loss of legacy media users – as newspapers. I have been waiting 10 years for an article like that to appear!

Can TV be at risk? TV viewing hours seem to be as high as they were 10 years ago.

Everyone is consuming media via the Internet – well, not everyone, but more and more. Is the Internet the issue? Is TV losing audiences to the Internet? Really? Why? So what?

Television, broadcast television, is in the same boat as newspapers because both “definitions” describe distribution channels. But (still) this is a content and consumer behaviour issue.

Broadcasters (and the music companies of yore) face many of the same challenges as newspaper publishers, and there might be opportunities to watch and see how the “TV industry” reacts and adapts.

Consumers care more about content than distribution channels. Technology has freed them from publisher and broadcaster schedules. They can watch, read, and listen to whatever they want, whenever they want.

This not only applies to news content but TV programmes, as well. The Internet, PVRs, and video-on-demand have freed consumers so they no longer depend on appointment-TV laid down by broadcasters with all their commercials.

Providing valuable and trustworthy content, ease of access, and entrenching habits are key to maintaining consumer engagement. This, in turn, provides content providers with valuable audiences for advertisers and financial security.

In the United States, consumers can easily watch their favourite programmes online; it is a little trickier here in Canada, but many find ways to do it. Broadcasters offer recent programmes on demand and on their Web sites.

Personal video recorders (PVRs) are an option, but what the measurement service finds is that this type of viewing is “over-hyped,” as is VOD. If a programme is available and easy to access, viewers are there, hence the continued popularity of traditional TV.

We live in a world where everyone is time-starved or there are just so many things to do. No one goes out of their way or their routine to do anything unless they perceive great value, return, or improvement over what is instantly available.

This applies to media choices and banking options.

As well as traditional TV content, there are newcomers to the video landscape. Netflix has been tremendously successful with past seasons of popular shows, movies, and, recently, by creating its own content.

But so what? Newspapers are seeing the same thing, and we do not have to look further than the music industry to see how that worked out.

In Canada, we are watching an interesting shift in the TV business. The battle for viewers is being fought through distribution channels and the fees charged.

Broadcasters are distributing their content through companies that control both cable or satellite and Internet access. You can pay cable/satellite fees to have your content delivered or you can pay Internet access fees.

And there is a shift going on for the cable/Internet/satellite operators to own and/or provide their own content. The fees are shifting ... not disappearing.

This is a neat arrangement for those companies that have the ability to control content and the distribution channel. It might not be an option for newspapers, although many newspapers are working out more favourable financial arrangements with aggregators.

Owning/providing unique and trustworthy content is where the newspapers provide value.

Habits and value are essential to the equation. Value is obvious. Today you provide value or you are ignored.

Trust plays a large role in value and it must be earned, then maintained.

Research has shown that, as a currency, trust is priceless, valuable if passed on, and can be lost in an instant. Consumers will pay more for products and services they trust.

Habits are more complicated and subtle. Everyone is busy, they want and need news. We are surrounded by headlines.

Newspapers offer more than just headlines, they offer a curated version of what is important and why it is important: value. And once value is established, newspapers are essential.

Readers face “loss aversion” when they no longer have access to that “value.” This is why it is easier to maintain a reader than acquire a new one. Readers do not want to lose the value of what they have; a non-reader has not yet found the value.

Habits make it easier to maintain value. Printed newspapers used to be a part of entrenched lifestyles.

Read a newspaper in the morning with breakfast – who does that anymore? Who sits down to breakfast at home? Not young adults and no one with a long commute ahead of them.

Reading on the commute continues, in cases where transit is a part of the journey. But so many people have to take the car (radio is stable and growing).

Digital editions are making strides by putting themselves in front of readers with RSS feeds, e-mail notifications, and pop-ups on mobile devices; be there, be easy, facilitate, and entrench a habit.

All media companies are facing challenges about how their content is being consumed and how to build new business models. The pace of change in the devices and gizmos we all have makes delivering content and measuring audiences incredibly difficult.

Providing value and habits will bring audiences and success.

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