"If you can tell me where this is going you're worth a zillion dollars. I've never felt the need for a crystal ball as much as I have now," Twist and Shout owner Paul Epstein says. "Things are changing at such a breakneck rate. It's not just the technology. It's the financial underpinnings of that technology."
– From a Rocky Mountain News
story on declining music CD sales
story on declining music CD sales
Songs, movies, network TV shows – they’re all on the same slope, with “blockbuster” hits selling ever-fewer copies per capita, even though total consumption of media continues to rise. But as Chris Anderson notes in his continuing analysis of how growing consumer choice affects media production, “It’s not that people aren’t watching films and listening to music, it’s that they are watching different films and different music.”
Different, yes. More accurately, he would say “more varied.” His thesis – called “The Long Tail” – stipulates that once consumers can reach down into the back catalog and select books/movies/songs of their choosing for consumption on their own schedule, they will frequently make those selections at the expense of the mega-hit of the moment. He describes the theory like this:
The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.
Does this mean anything to us? I’d guess, yes. The question is, what?
We have profited from fragmentation in other mass media. As three omnipotent broadcast networks morph into hundreds of narrow-interest cable channels, thereby subdividing the audience into ever-smaller slices, our mass reach is amplified. Even as we decline, our lead over number two grows bigger; we’re declining, they’re in free-fall.
I think this makes our traditional role in providing the common vocabulary for the community’s civic conversation more important than ever. That’s the good news.
The challenge is that hanging onto that (relatively) mass audience is harder all the time. You’re competing not only with CBS and USA Today, but also the History Channel, Howard Stern on Sirius satellite radio and the latest PlayStation game. The proliferation of catalog that defines the Long Tail adds even more choices for busy people who were already too distracted to pay much attention to the newspaper.
Hence our continued insistence on making content more compelling. It’s competing against much stiffer competition and won’t win with one hand tied behind its back.
- How interesting was the most compelling story on your front page?
- How many days per week is the front page truly compelling?
The same imperative likewise explains our efforts at extending into continuous, multiplatform operations. We need every tool at our disposal.
- How often was your website updated with breaking local stories today?
- If a staffer wants to try something new, how hard would it be to get started?
The good news is that we're working with powerful tools. Add Star Tribune penetration to the unduplicated reach of startribune.com and you’ve touched 62.2% of the adults in the Twin Cities. In Sacramento, the Bee newspaper and its three affiliated websites combine for 67.6%. Any other media company would kill for those numbers.
So, what's the single best thing you're doing that some of your cousins could easily steal?