Like the frog slowly boiling to death, we are immersed in a massive change to the way in which we receive information from the mass media.
Even the word “mass” is coming into question as newspapers battle falling readership and increasingly cynical sharemarket analysts and radio and TV companies watch their audiences splinter.
But every change has its opportunities and already I can see a trend emerging. Welcome to the age of the mega-media content expert.
Let me explain. Traditional media companies have an awful dilemma. To drive readers, listeners and viewers they need content, quality content. That means hiring smart writers and presenters who can unearth unique, compelling content that will make people buy, tune in or sign up. The trouble is those talented individuals, often with content-specific expertise like economics, politics or health cost money – big money. And the big money is in short supply with revenue linked to advertising contracting.
This is meant as no disrespect for anyone in the media right now or for younger folk contemplating a career in journalism or broadcasting. But one piece of advice: Don’t go into it if you expect to make a lot of money. That’s why the average lifespan for a TV reporter is around 4-5 years. It is many people’s idea of a dream job. Sure, there is pressure and long hours but what an amazing life! So why do so many TV reporters skip out in their early 30s and take a job as a press officer in a government media office? Well, for many it is the chance to increase their salary by 40-50% - to say nothing of getting their weekends back.
As I scan newsrooms now with the exception of the strong contingent of senior people, news organisations are turning more and more into sausage machines. Churning out content to keep the web page refreshed, fill the nightly news or the pages of early general news. And don't get me wrong - there are some talented, dedicated and fantastic people.
But chances are the big stars of the news show very rarely even make an appearance in the newsroom. In fact, they may even work from home or run an independent office. A case in point: Alan Kohler. He’s a prime example of a guy whose insight and writing is in demand. You can read his email update, watch him on the ABC News and listen to his Qantas inflight program.
There are going to be more Alan Kohlers. There already are. David Koch grew from a financial guru to a TV star. Here in Perth where I live we have a few examples of our own: Paul Murray is a case in point. This is the way of the future as the news world becomes heavily dependent on two sources of content at extreme ends of the scale.
Some of course will be directly employed by the bigger media houses like News Limited but more and more I suspect - the content megastars are going to become free agents – selling their content to the highest bidder.
Yep, welcome to the age of the mega-media content expert. It’s the wild west all over again. Only this time the outlaws really DO rule the roost! The media sheriffs should give up now.