What’s the most screwed up media business?

Among television, movies, newspapers and music, which industry is the most screwed up when it comes to adapting to the new world?

The newspaper business won some serious points this week in the “screwed up” race with Roy Peter Clark’s piece “Your Duty to Read the Paper.” Clark implores journalists to spend more time reading newspapers:

It is your duty as a journalist and a citizen to read the newspaper — emphasis on paper, not pixels. …

I’ve been reading the paper more closely lately, spending at least 15 minutes in the morning, and then picking up some longer stories and features in the evening. The experience has reminded me of something I forgot along the way: that there is no substitute for the local daily newspaper if I am going to live as a full-blooded citizen in a place that I love.

Why knock the newspaper industry for Clark’s essay? Clark is a “senior scholar” at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, considered by many to be the most prestigious “think tank” for the newspaper business. If Clark were Jason Calacanis or Robert Scoble, I’d chalk up this piece as linkbait. Sadly, I don’t think Clark knows what linkbait is or its purpose.

While Clark has been spouting the sanctity of the printed newspaper, I’ve been consuming television content.

Not watching television, mind you, but watching television content. I watched CNN’s Reliable Sources and NBC’s Meet the Press on my iPod while on trains and planes. I caught NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup streamed onto my laptop on Friday night. (I’m visiting my brother who doesn’t have a TV.) These are shows I wouldn’t have been able to watch otherwise.

Unfortunately for Clark and the newspaper business, those were potentially prime news reading opportunities. I hate it when people shove their broadsheet pages in my face when I’m crammed into a seat for five hours, so I try not to do that to them. Television won out because they provided content I wanted to consume in a format that was convenient for me. I can nitpick the details of NBC’s implementation or their fight with Apple, but at least they’re trying a lot of different things.

Same with the movie industry. I was interested in seeing I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With from IFC Films. It’s in limited release, so I can’t see it at the theater. No problem, it’s available for $6 through Comcast On Demand. The movie business as a whole is still stuck in the distribution window mindset with staggered releases to different channels, but those windows are rapidly collapsing. Comcast is now getting many On Demand movies at the same time they hit DVD.

That leaves the music business. It’s the industry that came up with the Ringle, one of the dumbest ideas I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also the industry that has been the most aggressive at suing its customers. At least newspapers haven’t done that yet.

Disclosure: I attended a Poynter Institute leadership seminar in the mid-90s and had a great learning experience, though I can’t say the same about the St. Petersburg Hilton Motel 6.

More on: newspapers, television

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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2 Responses to What’s the most screwed up media business?

  1. agnes m callaghan says:

    wow….what a snappy website.

    but your mind….not sure about that; you’re so focused on content. content? as opposed to gathering and reporting facts/opinions; real things that connect us to each other as people.

    ‘content’ is just so arid.

  2. Doris says:

    IFC is actually releasing a lot of its new movies through Video on Demand at the same time that the films hit the “big screen,” which can constitute just opening in Manhattan in some cases. (Weirdly, DirecTV makes it hard to call customer service! I wanted to order something, and all my screen told me was to call some extension. But I wasn’t provided the full number. It’s prolly some cutesy toll-free thing, but I shouldn’t have to think that hard to give them money, y’know?)

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