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Question from tomorrow: what’s the media?

In a period of massive change, one of the most massive is in the way that news is produced and consumed.  Newspapers dominated the scene for most of the past 400 years, but the internet is forever changing that picture.  In a world where readers kick in 20% of revenues while freeloading off the classified advertisers who provide 50%, the fall in classifieds has taken the newspaper business model with it.

Publishers are still trying to figure out how to monetize digital content.  Meanwhile, 11 metropolitan dailies have folded in the last two years while others have migrated to the web, reduced home delivery days, cut down size and staff and more.  (Here’s an interactive map showing the breadth of changes at the top 50 dailies.) 

While it’s hard to say what the future state will be, we’re clearly going to see a lot of experimentation, which my colleague David Hertz tracks in his blog.  He most recently described the emerging Twitter strategy at the Austin American-Statesman, a recognized innovator. 

Whatever the end game, the change is happening at high speed and communication pros have to stay ahead of the curve to remain effective.  Another colleague, Gary Wells, offers some here-and-now ideas in a new Emerging Trends article, and it’s clear we’re all going to have to experiment, too.  Some media observers have accused the newspaper industry of having been asleep at the switch.  Given the hesitance many companies have shown in adapting to changes in media models, businesses risk the same accusation.  A Fortune 500 communications executive recently told me she wished she could wake up and find Twitter gone.  Unfortunately, I’m guessing she could speak for a lot of leaders whose organizations haven’t really engaged in digital communication yet.  The clock is ticking.

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