Paranoia, Short-Term Thinking, and the Ongoing Media Death Spiral

Brent Bozell puts a few pieces of recent MSM news together, and draws quite an interesting narrative and conclusion from their back-to-back timing:

There's something oddly funny about the cluelessness of liberal media companies when their ratings fall or their subscriptions collapse. They just refuse to admit, even consider that the business problem could be (at least in part) their own incessant liberal agitating. Instead, they seem to double down and make things even worse.

ABC's Sunday show "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" could never beat NBC, so what did the ABC brain trust do? They promoted the Bill Clinton spin artist to an everyday anchor job on "Good Morning America." Then they doubled down and replaced him with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who is married to another Bill Clinton spin artist, Jamie Rubin. Can it get more insular?

Here's another case in point: Newsweek's subscriptions collapsed a couple of years back. How could it not be (at least in part) the umpteen Obama-worshipping cover stories that caused some subscribers to cancel? Then they really abandoned the "News" half of their title and wrote cover stories like "We're All Socialists Now" and "Is Your Baby Racist?"

Newsweek was put on the market, and the market has spoken: a $1 sale.

Washington Post Company chieftain Donald Graham wasn't going to let the unwashed "rabble" of journalism win this Cracker Jack prize. So he turned away the conservatives at Newsmax magazine, as well as the publishers of the National Enquirer and TV Guide. "In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism," Graham said in a statement. That means nobody broke up into laughter in front of him over whether the notion of "quality journalism" is demonstrated by racist-baby exclusives.

Add to that list this week's horrific Time magazine cover, and seen as part of the above narrative, it begins to look less like a reasoned "here's what's going to happen if America pulls out of Afghanistan" cover story, and much more like a PR stunt in hopes of calling attention, one way or another, to another faltering news weekly. (The Blogosphere is finally talking about Time magazine, which must make Time-Warner, which also owns low-rated CNN happy. But the legacy media, dubbed a collective "Victorian Gentleman" 30 years ago by Tom Wolfe, used to obsess on tone, aiming for the style of "Mass With Class" as the Washington Post of old used to describe themselves. Imagine how unsuspecting folks on the supermarket checkout line are recoiling if they're seeing Time's new cover for the first time.)

Back in February of 2007, I asked, "Has The Media's Red Queen's Race Begun?" And last year, Megan McArdle of the Atlantic explored "The Media Death Spiral:"

The circulation figures for the top 25 dailies in the US are out, and they're horrifying.  The median decline is well into the teens; only the Wall Street Journal gained (very slightly).

I think we're witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop, not the end of the newspaper business as we know it.  The economics just aren't there.  At some point, industries enter a death spiral:  too few consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to pass price increases onto their customers.  That drives more customers away.  Rinse and repeat . . .

For twenty years, newspapers have been trying to slow the process with increasingly desperate cost cutting, but almost all are at the end of that rope; they can't cut their newsroom or production staff any further and still put out a newspaper.  There just aren't enough customers who are willing to pay for their product what it costs to produce it.

She added in a follow-up post how short-term the thinking has become in the legacy media:

A bunch of my journalist friends and I have decided that our new toast is "to 2010".  2009 has so far been pretty disappointing for almost everyone I know, not to mention the country for which we all have great affection.

For those within the liberal cocoon of the MSM, the combination of extreme short-term thinking, caused by uncertainty and pessimism regarding your formerly august institution's future, or lack thereof, and as we've seen with the JournoList emails, blind hatred for your ideological opponents is a particularly toxic blend.

Is the Red Queen's Race/Media Death Spiral continuing? As Andrew Breitbart told an interviewer this past weekend, "There is going to be a reckoning in the near term and I think that these are the end days of what we call the traditional mainstream media."

Related: Exploring the train wreck of Newsweek being sold for $1, Stacy McCain describes the moment that new and old media really began to decouple: "let’s not forget how the 'serious-minded' Newsweek editors managed to blow Michael Isikoff’s exclusive on the Monica Lewinsky scandal."

And even after that, and the JournoList story being made public, that magazine's former owners continue to be a full-service propaganda extension of the current Democratic administration.

ere's something oddly funny about the cluelessness of liberal media companies when their ratings fall or their subscriptions collapse. They just refuse to admit, even consider that the business problem could be (at least in part) their own incessant liberal agitating. Instead, they seem to double down and make things even worse.

ABC's Sunday show "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" could never beat NBC, so what did the ABC brain trust do? They promoted the Bill Clinton spin artist to an everyday anchor job on "Good Morning America." Then they doubled down and replaced him with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who is married to another Bill Clinton spin artist, Jamie Rubin. Can it get more insular?

Here's another case in point: Newsweek's subscriptions collapsed a couple of years back. How could it not be (at least in part) the umpteen Obama-worshipping cover stories that caused some subscribers to cancel? Then they really abandoned the "News" half of their title and wrote cover stories like "We're All Socialists Now" and "Is Your Baby Racist?"

Newsweek was put on the market, and the market has spoken: a $1 sale.

Washington Post Company chieftain Donald Graham wasn't going to let the unwashed "rabble" of journalism win this Cracker Jack prize. So he turned away the conservatives at Newsmax magazine, as well as the publishers of the National Enquirer and TV Guide. "In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism," Graham said in a statement. That means nobody broke up into laughter in front of him over whether the notion of "quality journalism" is demonstrated by racist-baby exclusives.