Opinion » Cybernaut

Last call for media



If there was one theme that united the various speeches and presentations at the Jack Webster Awards two weeks ago, it was the importance of updating newsrooms and embracing this digital Pandora that is well out of the box by now. In the roughly 60 seconds it took Pique's Alison Taylor to walk to the podium to collect her award (Whoo!) we had already posted the news on Twitter and Facebook. Within a minute after her minute-long speech, the first photo was up.

That's pretty incredible in a lot of ways, and a little bit scary in others. At every table of the Hyatt at least two people were glued to their smart phones at all times, most of them probably working in between bites of dinner and sips of wine. In the age of social media and digital content, where only the most cutting edge will survive, you have to feed the beast, even if the beast isn't particularly hungry for what you're cooking that day. You also have to be first to the table, if you want to keep the beast's attention.

Keep in mind that I'm not calling you or any of our Pique readers a beast; to me the beast is this moment in time that we're living, this technological zeitgeist where a teenage girl can send 30,000 texts a month, where people refresh Facebook and Twitter every few minutes, and consume content like Scarface consumed cocaine at the end of Scarface; like Dennis Hopper's character consumed amyl nitrate gas in Blue Velvet: "I'll click any link that's blue!"

While I'm not opposed to keeping up with the times and following people to whatever new shiny new medium that captures their attention, the sad truth is that there's no money in that game. Print revenues are at their lowest point in around 50 years, while digital advertising revenue is set to overtake print for the first time this year. That sounds like good news, but those revenues aren't necessarily going to the newspapers that report news and generate content, but to search engines like Google and Bing, news aggregators like the Huffington Post and countless online-only publications. For every dollar that print publications use to make they are making at most about 15 per cent from online ads.

The digital age has put newspapers in direct competition with radio and television, with out-of-town and out-of-country media outlets, with classified sites like Craigslist and Kijiji, with every blog and do-it-yourself reporter on the planet, with every Twitter celebrity. We're all in the same competition for the same audience and for same advertisers, who are not necessarily content with just having a small unobtrusive banner off to the side of a webpage anymore. Some companies — such as Red Bull with their Stratos stunt — have skipped media altogether and produce their own content that competes with everyone else.