Truth is the media is much like the pizza business.
My own favorite pizza place years ago was John’s Party Pizza on Davie Street in Vancouver: a fantastic meat-laden pepperoni classic, loaded with cheese … sure, not great for the arteries or the waistline, but perfect for watching hockey, enduring a rainy day, after a lousy day at work, after a great day at work … well, really anytime! 🙂
John’s was a family run business … hugely successful for many decades (you could tell by the phones ringing in the background and the increasingly long delivery times). But well worth the wait.
And then …the unthinkable: the owners retired and sold off the place …or, I should say, their little gold mine.
You would think the new owners would just sit back, let the phones ring, the orders go out and cash in handsomely. But no! Maybe it was the high purchase cost or their own bright new ideas (starting to see the media analogy?) they changed the formula: seemed to my keen eye less meat and less cheese atop a thinner tomato base.
Sales must have started dropping …because they then introduced a new “feature”: TWO FOR ONE (kind of like hiring two cheaper fresh young reporters instead of one well-aged and experienced )! I recall also noticing the crust became thicker …as the high quality but costlier topping ingredients became sparser. Not happy, you old customers? Well, how about THREE FOR ONE!!! Of course, it seemed to me by now to be basically bread with pepperoni sliced so thin, it only had one side, with a “cheesy” (was it even real cheese?) type topping atop some sort of red “tomatoey” liquid.
John’s Party Pizza on Davie is no more: it not only lost its old loyal customers but, with its apparent lower standards and lesser quality, failed to attract new ones …especially with so many other delicious options increasingly out there in the rapidly growing … and demanding … marketplace.
Which brings me back to television.
A story in the Globe and Mail this week (click here) reported Canada’s conventional television industry saw profits drop 85% last year. DOWN EIGHTY-FIVE PER CENT!
“The conventional broadcasters, which own over-the-air networks accessible to most Canadians, have been under pressure for several years as viewers abandon mainstream programming in favour of edgier offerings available on specialty channels.” the Globe wrote.
“The CRTC said Bell Media’s CTV network posted a $15-million pre-tax loss, Rogers-owned City and OMNI lost $40-million and Shaw Media’s Global earned $23-million. Those numbers could be worse next year, as a temporary fund set up to help conventional networks recover from the recession – funded by consumers on cable and satellite bills – is phased out and takes tens of millions of dollars out of the pockets of the networks.”
Now, before we rush out to organize a tag day for the media conglomerates, you should know their Specialty and Pay TV channels pulled in $934 Million in profits last year along.
What this all says is that people are turning away from conventional channels …you know, the ones that provide local newscasts, that USED TO BRING some of the highest ratings of a station’s viewing day … and especially Canadian content. Declining News viewership is NOT singled out in the Globe report or by the CRTC as being specifically responsible for the decline in profits … but the advertisers clearly watch those numbers.
And so do the corporate media owners.
“Earlier this month, Rogers Communications Inc. reacted to the weak advertising market by shuttering its fledgling CityNews channel and laying off employees at Omni, a conventional network with stations across the country that specializes in non-English programming. The moves cut 2.5 per cent of the company’s broadcast work force, or about 60 full-time jobs.” said the Globe.
Scary stuff …for those of us who care about the news business and it should worry viewers too: you may find local news watered down and served up these days in a “cheesy” sauce, but our society would NOT be better served without it.
Meanwhile, the ratings war in Vancouver is really worth watching … if the media were as interested in FACTUALLY covering themselves (not just puff promos) as much as they scrutinize others.
Wednesday night was, of course, a hockey night … but among those watching news, CTV at 6 p.m. scored a 2.0 ratings point, compared to Global’s 3.2 the important 25-54 age category … cutting the spread to the CLOSEST I’ve seen in years, from what used to be normally a five of six to one gap. If they’re not concerned at Global, they sure should be!
Meanwhile, advertisers will go where the viewers go …and that’s why sagging newsrooms MUST change their ingredients: MORE experienced reporters: BETTER writers; SKILLED investigators and, most importantly, COMPETENT and DEDICATED management, who understand that quality does cost.
The viewers know that …and so do the advertisers.
(By the way, for those interested in more on this topic, tune in to the interview I have done with Talk Digital Radio’s Jim Goddard.)