Current state of the media business

The media business has been thoroughly disrupted by the web. Not one traditional media format or business has been untouched by the change ushered in by the Internet and the various networks and platforms that have resulted.

Collection, analysis and distribution of 'news' have fundamentally changed. No longer are traditional media channels the only or best way to broadcast a message to a large audience. A large media company, whether broadcast or print, is no longer the only way to communicate with a large group of people.

Om Malik:

With the rise of the social web, that has changed. Blogs, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other such platforms have made it easy for news makers to go direct to their constituents.

The social web has removed much of the old power of media to break news, control messages and influence opinion. With the immediacy of social networks, users see things happen at the same time as reporters and editors and offer their own commentary often well before professionals can get started.

To maintain relevancy, media outlets must now shift from the collection and distribution of news to the analysis and 'curation' of news. Because each person or entity online is a consumer and producer all at the same time, the amount of information available is overwhelming. Successful media companies – now and into the future – are shifting to a model of being an authority on particular viewpoints. This creates a following among consumers of similar views and these consumers come to trust their media source of choice.

The ramifications of this 'follower' model aren't yet completely clear, but it certainly is resulting in a fragmentation of opinion and ideology. Where in the past, because mass communication was so siloed and constrained, if an issue didn't make it into a newspaper or onto a news broadcast, it likely wasn't on the minds of the majority of constituents. Now, with the fragmentation and diversity of the web, we're able to see a truer reflection of what issues are important in our society. It means that there is likely less agreement, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The shift to digital has not only changed the way that the media works, but it has changed the way that media companies make money. Newsweek recently announced that after 80 years of being a printed publication, it will shift to digital only in 2013 (Newsweek). The New York Times, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail have all implemented paywall systems where readers can view a set limit of articles per month for free, but then have to pay to continue reading. So far, this model hasn't been entirely successful. A 2012 Pew Research study showed that for every $1 in digital revenue that newspapers brought in, they lost $7 in print revenue (Pew Research). Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainly around media business models (Note: Thanks to Quentin for pointing out that the the Pew study looked only at advertising revenue, not content revenue from things like paywalls).

These changes have serious implications for what 'the media' means for society. It's not totally clear where things are going, but it is obvious that users and organizations are responsible for the content and messages that they put out and can no longer sit back and rely on the media to spread it for them.