Friday, October 28, 2005

Big Media: Caught in the Net

Big Media: Caught in the Net

PEJ News -
C. L. Cook - The captains of the great flagship newspapers and television networks are frantically changing course, hoping they've not missed the internet tide. It's a sea-change too swift apparently for Big Media, grown as it has fat and indolent, resting on the laurels of an overlong dominance of information and political influence. Now, it's a race to the rat-lines, and one rat is ahead of the pack.

"Terrified" Big Media Grasps at Net
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 28, 2005

Fitting that the fattest rat of them all should be the leader of the pack scurrying off traditional media's sinking ship. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has proven nothing less than phenomenal. Not only did the Outback outsider crack American media's Network guardians, but he's come, in a few short years to dominate. But, Rupert's victory could prove Pyrrhic if current trends continue.

Just as newspapers, magazines, and publishers (tentacles all of Murdoch's vast empire) watched circulation ebb, television viewers too are increasingly abandoning the TV for the PC. At the recent Internet Advertising Bureau conference, chief executive Martin Sorrell of WPP, one of the world's most influential advertising and marketing firms, said what everyone was thinking: The times are changing fast in media, and those that don't keep up will be left behind.

"I think there's a certain amount of panic among media owners... Most of these companies, ours included I suppose, are run by 50- or 60-year-olds who have trouble getting it, and who really don't want to see change on their watch."

Never one to wait, News Corp. is now plying all waters, casting broad nets, and snapping up internet media properties as though they were the last of the cod. It's a move Sorrell says seems "almost willy-nilly." Already this year, News Corp. has shelled out more than $1.3 billion on Intermix Media, IGN Entertainment, and Scout Media. With promises of more to come. BSkyB, the British satellite broadcaster and 37 percent controlled by News Corp. is reportedly on the hunt for broadband provider Easynet for an easy 211 million British Sterling.

If the King of Fox's deep pockets has his smaller media moguls fretting, they needn't bother. According to Microsoft head Bill Gates, also attending the IAB conference, such "distinctions" between mediums will soon be "obsolete" notions.

Cold comfort perhaps.

Gates' vision of the future is one where ALL content is distributed online. A timely epiphany, considering Microsoft's imminent release of a 'paid search system' geared to advertisers interested in hyper-specific consumer targeting. MSN's new Advertising Center is due to launch in November.

As seductive a picture a great scuttling of the "mainstream" info/tainment juggernauts is, it's unlikely they'll do so on the meagre dead-heads currently providing alternative information and the much prized "content" Bill craves. More likely, those ship that will come aground atop the tide-surge of tsunami's Bill and Rupert, leaving those of us seeking respite from both no better off.

Chris Cook
is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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