mass media will never win on the web

Or at least they won’t think they’re winning because they’re still using the same yardstick for success that they’ve used for decades.

With broadcast and print media, success is measured in numbers with lots of zeroes on the end — both in terms of audience and cash.

Meanwhile, true success on the web is measured in (sometimes small) dedicated audiences.

The long tail does not fit the mass media model — in terms of audience or revenue. And yet, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and every other form of mass media have been trying to cram their square hole mass media model into a round online hole ever since the mid-90’s.

And they’ve been sitting in sackcloth and ashes since the start — lamenting that the web is taking over and they can’t replace the shrinking offline audience with a new online audience. And they worry that the old fistful of advertising dollars won’t follow that audience.

And they’re right. That audience and those ad dollars are gone. And the faster that mass media outlets stop trying to make those old models work, the faster they will find success.

It’s not new. We’ve seen it before on a lesser scale. Some huge radio stars couldn’t translate into being big TV stars. The Andy Griffith Show was better in black and white. No one wanted to hear what silent movie actors sounded like. But there was huge success and massive revenue to be found in the new worlds of television and talkies — when people stopped trying to cram the old model into the new.

Mass media needs to stop thinking about how to make people “read newspapers online” or “watch the evening news online”. They need to take a fresh look at what they’re doing. What does an online audience look like and how do they want to consume your product online? They need to “stop broadcasting and start narrowcasting“.

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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  1. […] there’s a third problem of trying to fit old mass media models into new media which I addressed last fall. bookmark or share this […]