[opendtv] Opinion: Mass-Media Meltdown

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 06:59:06 -0400

Via Shoptalk

Mass-Media Meltdown
John Podhoretz

The mass-media melt down is happening everywhere you look - from the 
multiplex to the newsstand, from late-night television to drive-time 

Hollywood is in a panic, because for nine weeks straight, box office 
grosses have been lower than last year's.

As Gabriel Snyder wrote in Tuesday's edition of Variety, "In recent 
years the first weekend of May has seen a big expansion in the 
marketplace. But if [the current] estimate of $83 million holds when 
final figures are tallied, it would be the worst weekend of an 
already listless year. It is also 26 percent behind last year's 
summer kickoff frame, when 'Van Helsing' opened to $51.7 million - 
perceived as a disappointment at the time."

The editors and publishers of most major American newspapers are 
terrified, because declines in newspaper circulation are accelerating 
at an alarming clip. By one reckoning, the Los Angeles Times lost an 
astounding 13 percent of its readers in a year's time.

Television networks are reeling from a dramatic contraction of its 
audience of young male viewers aged 18-34 - the cohort most desired 
by advertisers. According to a controversial Nielsen study, their 
prime-time viewership has declined by nearly 8 percent. The number 
has been shrinking for more than a decade.

Talk-radio audiences in major cities like New York and Washington 
have fallen since the 2004 election. Meanwhile, radio executives who 
program music stations - and who have been packing every hour with 
increasing numbers of commercials - are being forced by their 
impatient audiences to limit the number of ads and play more music.

The American recording industry is in tatters, increasingly unable to 
introduce new stars and to sell new music.

There are compelling individual explanations for these phenomena. For 
instance, this year's movies have been extraordinarily uninteresting. 
And the collapse in newspaper circulation may simply be the result of 
more honest reporting on the part of publishers chastened by the 
public exposure last year of fraudulent numbers at papers like 
Newsday and the Dallas Morning News.

But it can't be a coincidence that the five major pillars of the 
American media - movies, television, radio, recorded music and 
newspapers - are all suffering at the same time. And it isn't. 
Something major has changed over the past year, as the availability 
of alternative sources of information and entertainment has finally 
reached critical mass.

Newly empowered consumers are letting the producers, creators and 
managers of the nation's creative and news content know that they are 
dissatisfied with the product they're being peddled.

Take the movie going audience. For 25 years, people have been 
watching movies at home on video and DVD. But only in the past year 
or so have people been able to afford big flat screens in their homes 
that offer an aural and visual experience superior in many ways to a 
movie theater's.

The $2,000 price tag for that TV doesn't seem so steep when you 
consider that an average married couple has to pay upwards of $70 
($22 for two tickets, another $15 for soda and popcorn for two, 
parking fees, babysitter) to attend a single film. And it doesn't 
seem like that much of a treat when the movie is being projected onto 
a filthy piece of billowing white canvas that is never cleaned.

And so it goes. Satellite radio makes it possible for people willing 
to spend $12 a month to listen to superb sound quality without 
commercials. TiVo and digital video recorders have finally made it 
easy for people to watch the TV programs they want to watch whenever 
they want to watch them. And it goes without saying that the Internet 
has transformed the way people interested in news can get their 

It also goes without saying that the owners and distributors of old 
media aren't just going to go quietly into that good night. These are 
still unimaginably valuable platforms. But the key will be 
understanding that the self-satisfied conduct of media professionals 
- peddling unwatchable nonsense in Hollywood and on TV, and foisting 
politically correct pseudo-information on increasingly sophisticated 
consumers of news - isn't going to hack it any longer.
You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:

- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 

- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
unsubscribe in the subject line.

Other related posts: