NBC is apparently giving up on the idea of a one-for-one replacement of Tim Russert as Meet the Press host. According to a well-placed source, instead they will rotate through an ensemble of hosts that will include NBC political director Chuck Todd and correspondent David Gregory.
Brilliant. Chances are, any single individual selected for this role would have been scrupulously compared to Tim Russert as the gold standard, with any deviation holding potential to be seen as a flaw. Use of an ensemble blurs these “follow-in-the-footstep” comparisons. Moreover, it even gives one ensemble member the opportunity to develop his/her own image and room to rise sufficiently to be an individual replacement some day.
CBS’ CEO Leslie Moonves says his network is becoming a “one stop shop” for news and information that is now competing effectively against newspapers. Of all the recent bad news for newspapers, this may be among the worst.
To survive in a world without paper editions, online newspapers will need high rates for online ads, but news sites of network conglomerates will not. The conglomerates can spread their news production costs across all of their media platforms and properties, including their sports and entertainment divisions. In many cases they will not even care whether or not they recoup their news production costs, since much will have advertising value for their other properties. The network news conglomerate in the end may be what keeps rates down and newspapers out.
Should the metro newspaper industry survive, which at this point is looking increasingly doubtful, it might only be because of its unique ability to create original content that directly affects our lives.
But the media industry is going the other way, toward global brands. In the Hollywood Reporter in regards to video, Times Warner chair Jeffrey Bewkes said, “I remember the old 80-20 rule, where 80 per cent of the money was coming from 20 per cent of the activity. Well, now it’s going to be more like 90-10, where more of the money is going to an ever more world accessible giant brands and hits.” Translating that to the news sector, if 90% of our news stories will be global stories, is it that we are no longer most interested in news that most directly affects our lives? More likely, it is that global stories are now seen as directly affecting our lives. Not a good sign for a hyperlocal news future.
The future vetting process for salacious political rumors is taking shape. Those most beyond-the-pale will often start with partisan blogs, which are unteathered by journalism standards and motivated to find the worst in their adversaries. For example, liberal bloggers reported that VP candidate Sarah Palin faked a pregnancy for a fifth child to cover up for a pregnant daughter.
Traditional outlets will stand back and wait for permission to publish, which can be easily granted by a comment from a public spokesperson. In the Palin episode, this permission came when a McCain aide commented that he had no evidence the story was being pushed by the Obama camp.
With partisan blogs motivated to generate such rumors, and public figures providing permission to publish simply by acknowledging them, we can expect a bawdier future of news.
Business Week reports that German papers are doing well despite the web, in sharp contrast to the U.S. The article quickly dismisses the fact that one of Berlin’s dailies shows nude women on the first page, before giving a host of seemingly more legitimate reasons they have avoided the U.S.’ slump. For example, a crisis in 2001 that forced changes that are bolstering German papers against the Internet.
But, did Business Week dismiss the nude pictures too quickly? Nudity has been one of the few, sure fire ways to monetize the web in the U.S. Perhaps it’s the old Playboy Magazine formula — readers who claim to buy it for the articles, but really don’t. It is not out of the question that a U.S. newspaper in desperation might try full frontal-page nudity, which one can imagine would be a milestone in the evaporation of journalism culture.
In Olympic games prior to the Internet, America was riveted to a handful of big events selected by the TV networks. But NBC, presenting its 11th Olympics, is changing all the rules by taking advantage of the fragmenting power of cable and the Internet.
Summing it up is 22-year-old Jonathan Mays who notes, “NBC has a dedicated soccer channel [on cable] and live stuff on NBCOlympics.com.” He likes the fact that he can follow the progress of the teams as they move from the group stage through quarterfinals and finals. In effect, he is creating customized Olympic coverage for himself.
Will the same thing happen to news? Will Americans follow the news that interests them most and only share an interest in a handful of big stories — Michael Phelps-sized stories? That seems to be where we are headling.