Accuracy in Media

The print media industry received some more bad news last week after a new 24/7 Wall St./Harris poll showed that despite the fact that 67% of those surveyed prefer to receive their news from television, newspapers or magazines, fully 55% of the respondents also believed that traditional media as we know it will not exist in ten years.

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise as newspapers and magazines have suffered large circulation losses in the past few years with some publications moving to an online model only or completely shutting down as financial losses mounted.

There are several reasons for the decline of  traditional media including the recession which wreaked havoc with advertising revenue and circulation as businesses cut back and job losses mounted.  But more importantly it is the move to online news that has had the biggest impact on both the bottom line and the future of  traditional  or old media.

Also the poll revealed 50% of the respondents  now get almost all their news online and in the 18-34 year-old demographic 65% use this method versus just 33% of those 55 and older.

Those are not encouraging numbers for publications such as The New York Times or The Washington Post which have suffered millions of dollars in losses from their newspaper operations in the last few years and whose audience is clearly getting older and shrinking rapidly.

The networks and newspapers though have only themselves to blame for their less than rose future.  As the economy sank and readers fled online they reacted by making deep cuts in personnel , reducing the size and content of their publications and in the process becoming less newsworthy.

Take Newsweek for example.  They revamped the magazine by changing its focus, reducing the number or pages and raising the cover price.  The end result was steeper losses and a sale to a billionaire with no experience in publishing for $1 plus assumed liabilities of over $40 million.

Now under new management the magazine is seeking to regain some of its former glory but will be doing so without many of its star writers who left after the sale to Sidney Harman was completed.

Harman like the owners of other magazines, newspapers and television and radio stations arrived a little late to the online media blitz and are struggling to catch up but they find themselves in a difficult situation as the public expects the content to be free even though providing the news has a very real cost to it that is not fully supported by online advertising.

There is a management saying “Adapt or Die”  and in this case the traditional or old media is adapting but it may be too late to save them from death.

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