Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media . . .

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 7, 2009

CES in Las Vegas was made more tolerable because of the good company of fellow journalist blogger Paul Mooney. One late night we were discussing the media industry, an occasional favorite topic of mine.

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We were discussing how the economic situation was going to accelerate the broad disruptive trend within the media industry.

Less advertising would lead to a faster rate of job losses, and lower revenues for most, if not all media companies, and that also includes many newer media companies, Gawker Media for example. Simply put, it's not a good time to be in media--mainstream or newstream.

More recently, the Wall Street Journal cut 25 newsroom jobs.

Here is part of a memo to staff from Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

It is obvious to you all that we are in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn. We are also in the midst of an unprecedented increase in our readership, in print and online, but a precipitous decline in print advertising revenue has forced a close examination of our structures and of our costs.

It points to a curious anomaly within news organizations, that readership is often rising but revenues are falling.

And the reason is that advertising is less expensive online but news creation costs remain the same. The cost of being in the news business isn't being covered by online advertising revenues.

Media companies such as Google and Yahoo can sell online advertising at low rates and cover their costs but Wall Street Journal and other news organizations cannot survive without shrinking their productive resources, which can create a downward spiral of less content, and less revenue.

When journalists lose their jobs it's tough because they also lose their publishing platform. They lose their byline, they disappear from public view, and that makes it more difficult finding a job. And even when better economic times return, the majority of journalism jobs won't ever return.

In Las Vegas, Paul Mooney and I were thinking that we are in a better position than many of our colleagues in the media because we don't have far to fall. As long as we can keep the lights on, and maintain an Internet connection, we can still keep publishing during bad times, and worsening times. If you lose your job at a news organization you lose your public persona--a journalist that isn't publishing isn't.

We joked that we represent a new type of media: cockroach media. Paul is from New York where cockroaches can be formidable in their ability to survive the harshest environments. He says, "I've given cockroaches some of my best hits and they still manage to crawl away."

Cockroach media will survive this economic downturn a lot better than old and new media companies. And cockroach media should do well once the inevitable upturn comes around.

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Cockroach media:

Paul Mooney Living, Linking and Learning

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