The greater failure of old media

I am not a big reader of Seth Godin even though he is said to be one of the smartest folks in this realm we call new media. Every once in a while though I’ll catch one of his posts via a link in someone else’s post; or like I did today via Robert Scoble’s Shared Feed. It is this post of his today that has had me thinking for most of the day because what he wrote is in my opinion nothing short of brilliant.

In his post Seth walks us easily through why an old media icon like the Grey Lady has become; or is quickly becoming irrelevant but also why this didn’t have to happen. As a one time thought leader and a social-political influencer the New York Times had all the pieces it needed to survive our shift to a whole new way of interacting with our news and information. In fact; of the few really powerful news organizations the NY Times had the talent and the money that could have made it a formidable powerhouse of a new media giant.

As Seth points it could have easily surpassed anything that Wikipedia has done. It could have easily owned the territory now being held by blog networks like HuffPro or Daily Kos. It could have built a network of customized newsletters and blogs that would have provided them with a huge base of targetable audiences that advertisers drool over. The very fact that all these things could have been built on top of one of the largest archives of news; and some of the best writers in the business, all under the banner of The New York Times would have almost assured its place at the top any media – old or new.

This ignorance and fear of what being a part of any new media adventure was something that didn’t just affected the Grey Lady; but has indeed proven to be the downfall of all the major players in the old media world. It wasn’t as if some of those employed by bastions of old media didn’t see what was coming and grabbed on with both hands for the exciting ride. After all we have seen many in the industry become successful bloggers within their own right – not as employees of an old media company but as an individual with a solid reputation and authority behind them.

While old media giants concerned themselves with shrinking ad sales they failed to see that they were losing far more important things. It isn’t only newsprint either, just about every form of old media that is in the business of providing news, information and opinion is losing the same thing. In this rapidly changing landscape of news and information these once great providers are losing more than advertising dollars – they are losing their reputations and authority.

There are some that would suggest that they have lost those things quite some time ago and maybe so for a small segment of their readers; but for the larger majority I think the turning point has only just been reached.

This is simply because we don’t have the footprints of time behind us and neither do we have the resources that still are a part of old media. As we go forward though this could very well change but reputation and authority are hard earned, taking time and patience. Whether or not the current crop of new media trailblazers have enough of either of those two things still remains to be seen.

It is safe to say though that without these two cornerstones – reputation and authority – no one will last; new media or old. It is the loss of those two things that I think is the greater failure. A failure that we in the world of new media must always remember or we too shall find ourselves replaced by something newer and better.