Radio & TV Four Years From Now

The official end of traditional media occurred yesterday.

Or, to be more precise, it marked a long downhill process that began several years ago and ended last night.

Presidential politics was ugly this year -- and I'm not talking about the candidates, parties, attack groups. That, too.

What we've witnessed is the point of no return -- where radio, television and print handed its power, influence and soon revenue over to new media.

It's important because the radio and record businesses right now are in that same downward trend along with television and newspapers. Perhaps some lessons can be noted.

Television news channels did a horrible job of covering this long national nightmare -- the two year campaign for president of the United States.

Fox was at its worst -- pitching the talking points of the Republican party and this time around MSNBC became the Liberal Fox with vitriol and partisanship that only Roger Ailes could appreciate. This does not appeal to the next generation. It may work for now for these news channels, but it has no future with Gen Y.

ABC, CBS and NBC looked like news organizations of public companies with budget woes.

Reporters were pulled off of campaign coverage to save money -- print and TV.


Radio abdicated its music franchises over the past year. They think I'm nuts to say politics is hot. My old mentor, the radio consultant Paul Drew, used to tell me that when an event of significance happens, play it like a hit record.

Talkshow windbags did the only thing they know how to do -- pander at full volume. Again, enjoy yourself. Gen Y will have nothing of this and they're making their move and coming of age now.

Four years ago candidates with Howard Dean leading the way learned how to raise money on the Internet. This time, Barack Obama turned the Internet into a giant social network for his movement plus he used it to raise record amounts of money that overpowered John McCain's best efforts.

Work with me here.

You couldn't find regular substantive news coverage on television. Local TV news was negligent in covering local politics -- after all, their consultants never liked news -- they think people like fluff. And the suits still hire them to give you a pet story, a health story, how-to-lose weight story instead of news. Meanwhile, look at a nation of young people enthralled, involved and in touch. Someone is wrong.

I, and perhaps others -- including our next generation -- relied on the Internet.

Real Clear Politics -- a clearinghouse for outstanding coverage of the presidential race with no bias.

NPR and PBS online (occasionally on Sirius).

Drudge and Huffington Post depending on how you lean.

Bloggers weighed in more than ever (Politico, et al) -- and it's not possible to know to what extent bloggers bring anything to the discussion (I'd be careful here). But we had a ton of insights from people other than Tom Brokaw.

My iPhone had an app from Slate Magazine that allowed me to get the latest polls and electoral vote projections in real time. I was addicted. Perhaps you experienced the euphoria of tapping, touching and feeling connected.

My favorite candidate had an Apple app that made it possible to donate money, work on his behalf and even reminded me to vote. How cool.

For those of us not in Gen Y -- getting news and views about politics -- was less rewarding this time because television, radio and print are in the process of committing suicide.

But social networking was the digital advance during this election season and that played to the next generation and those of us who soon became addicted to a form of connectivity that traditional media could never bring.

The votes are counted. We have a new president. The election is over.

What can we learn?

1. Talkradio as we know it is deader than music radio. It may be all some stations have, but it's not all that for the listener who now has so many more choices -- especially the next generation.

2. Podcasting -- what I call the new radio -- gave us a preview of what life will be like in the next four years. I listen to a NPR news podcast just before turning in each night and choose a public radio political program. No shouting, no ambushes -- and it was on my terms, my time -- I could stop it, start it, delete it -- or fall asleep although not from boredom (better than Ambien).

3. Social networking is not an add-on or option, it is a requirement going forward. Radio and television cannot survive in a world where people demand interactivity. When every candidate slip up or send up (a la Tina Fey's Sarah Palin on YouTube) is available to the masses in ten minutes or less, access increases. When a viewer can forward YouTube clips to friends at will -- it can be a meaningful form of advocacy that will define new media in the future. In the past, news directors and producers decided what we could see and we had to see it on their screens.

4. Keep an eye on Twitter and its clones. I and those who "follow" me (and I them on Twitter) carry some influence if for no other reason than we can say we're headed to a McCain meeting or an Obama rally. Whether anyone cares about what we're doing at any given moment or not, we now have that added ability. My guess is that those of us who want to communicate in the moment will find more meaningful things to say as the years go on. We may not need to, but this is how the world is changing.

5. Polling took the biggest hit because how can you rely on pollsters who can't call people with cellphones? I mean, isn't that everyone? Zogby called it the election a dead heat a few days ago. He was wrong. Public opinion (and presidential preference) can ebb and flow freely because consumers can communicate in real time with each other unimpeded by formal news organizations. Polls are rendered less meaningful as opinions can congeal in ways that are now increasingly difficult to predict.

6. Just a few elections ago, it mattered when the masses turned to people they could trust on politics such as Peter Jennings, Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw. Today, people they trust are likely to be those in their social networks. This has major ramifications for traditional media outlets who still think they matter. I know that is a bit harsh and maybe unfair, but it is unlikely that anything said on television, radio or seen in print will rival the next phase of the digital age.

The presidential election gives us a clear view -- if we need yet another one -- of how traditional media has seen its better days.

The next generation -- the Millennials who make up Gen Y -- are coming of age. Think about it. They were raised on the Internet, weaned on mobile communications and were the first generation in the communication age to look elsewhere for their entertainment and information.

This could spell doom and gloom for radio, TV and print.

Radio, TV and print have to learn to understand the next generation that they just don't get. They need look only to their declining ratings, decreasing revenue and many digital competitors to know that they're reading it wrong.

Radio doesn't get that young people are addicted to politics (look no further than Obama). This addiction is well beyond traditional talk radio. Yet radio has done less political reporting as the years have gone on and now it's too late -- the next generation has gone elsewhere.

Television was the last bastion for politics but it's under attack by itself -- and its budget cuts. I, like many, watched the results last night on a flat screen large HD TV but many folks were happy to track the results on their laptops or phones (something I also did). The TV part may become a thing of the past. It's one-way communication.

While I'm at it -- in my opinion, political coverage was downright awful this time. The debates were boring and not substantive and the reporters did little to help the viewers get to the issues. The formats determined by the two political camps were part of the problem. The media is the other part. Reporters on both Fox and CNN who did superficial reporting were embarrassing.

If CNN is the most trusted name in news -- count out the next generation.

If Fox is fair and balanced -- how irrelevant to a young person who can get fair by balancing a laptop on his or her leg.

In four more years, we'll see --

• CNN, Fox and MSNBC in a midlife crisis trying to be the Internet, social networks and mobile beacons. They will fail.

• Radio will be a distant memory and irrelevant to the next generation on news, politics, information and social issues as it now has become on music. Radio walked out on them.

• Newspapers are getting lots of readers to their online sites while they lose paid print circulation but they really have an old reporter attitude about what their mission is. Newspapers will not be able to transfer their influence from paper to computer screen as easily as they think.

Look to Drudge.

He aggregated 35 million people to his site on election day.

He doesn't do anything (or as liberals say, other than pimp for his right-wing causes).

That's not right. He does do something.

Drudge aggregates information from all over in a fashion that makes it more manageable for web surfers to get the news they want (or he wants them to read).

That's the future.

An almost infinite number of news and entertainment sources pulled together by aggregators as a convenience.

TV, radio and newspapers used to be the one-way source -- the only source -- for such things.

Now in a world of so many possibilities including but not limited to social interaction, you didn't just see history made last night on the presidential election -- you saw the historic last traditional media presidential coverage.

And, a glimpse of what is next in as few as four short years that will retire old media and bring on the digital future.

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