On The Demise Of Old Media

Paul R. La Monica, CNNMoney.com editor at large, says that Old media isn’t dead.” The following is my response:

Dear Paul,

As the publisher of News Corpse, I have to take issue with the premise of your article this morning that “old media isn’t dead.”

You make the argument that because old media isn’t going away, that it isn’t dead. That’s a flawed argument because there is no reason that the media can’t die and still stink up the place with its corpse. But eventually, someone’s going to have to call the Health Department and have the body carted away.

To borrow from the Terri Schiavo debate, we might want to define what constitutes life. Most of the examples in your column refer to blips on the financial screen. But there is also the matter of quality of life. While there is still money to be made in the old media marketplace, many informed observers will tell you that it is in a persistent vegetative state, i.e. brain dead. In the past week alone, three major newspapers were caught making the same mistakes they made four years ago by dutifully transcribing unsourced government claims, this time about Iran. And though you quoted Rupert Murdoch’s comments about the fiscal health of newspapers, were you aware of his admission last month that he tried to use his media empire to shape the agenda on Iraq? And as if that weren’t bad enough, he made similar comments about his upcoming business channel being “business friendly.” That doesn’t sound like the kind of life that’s worth living.

You correctly point out that old media is moving into new media spaces. I view this as deathbed desperation. Although terminal, old media is still aware of the doom that the future holds and they are trying to cling to the new out of fear. Ultimately, all media will be delivered via the Internet. The part old media plays depends on whether they can discover a miracle cure and recover, or simply and gratefully slip into the void.

There is one other possible outcome that I would call the Vampire Scenario. This is where old media buys up massive chunks of new media, successfully bribes Washington’s legislators and regulators to give themselves more power, and emerges undead from its own grave.

That was meant to sound scary.

When the White House Press Stenographers Association is too afraid of losing access to challange those they cover; when corporations that profit from war and other government enterprises control the mass media; when Congress is disinclined to rein in the monopolistic tendancies of the big media’s five families; how can anyone seriously view old media as anything but a stiff, lifeless hulk that, if not dead, is praying for someone to pull the plug.