On March 18, the Pew pollsters unleashed a blizzard of bleak data describing the media industry’s future. You probably saw the highlights splashed across many media outlets (because the media love to cover the media; their appetite for self-examination knows no bounds).
The report noted that the people who are likeliest to consume news are unwilling to pay for it, meaning that the industry has the challenge, again, of trying to reach people as its financial wherewithal weakens.
The Pew research is, as usual, compelling and exhaustive, but the obvious question in all of this remains: So, what else is new?
The American public has been turned off to the media for a long time. Maybe the slow decline was inevitable when the media organizations, eager to exploit the consumers of news, hurtled headfirst into the concept of 24/7 coverage on cable. This led to the rise of the politically driven cable television networks and the strident talk-radio channels.
Instead of news and information, people got polemics. But they clearly want to receive information. What they want is for the media to lead them,not merely reflect the yowling at the kitchen table or the local tavern down the street.
The media will write and broadcast solemnly about the Pew report. But will they actually read it? Will they come to understand that they aren’t serving their audience smartly.