Monday, November 30, 2009

The Fall and Rise of Media

Historically, young women and men who sought to thrive in publishing made their way to Manhattan. Once there, they were told, they would work in marginal jobs for indifferent bosses doing mundane tasks and then one day, if they did all of that without whimper or complaint, they would magically be granted access to a gilded community, the large heaving engine of books, magazines and newspapers.

Beyond that, all it took to find a place to stand on a very crowded island, as E. B. White suggested, was a willingness to be lucky. Once inside that velvet rope, they would find the escalator that would take them through the various tiers of the business and eventually, they would be the ones deciding who would be allowed to come in.

As even casual readers of media news know, those assumptions now sound precious, preposterous even. Calvinistic ideals are no match for macromedia economics that have vaporized significant components of the business model that drives traditional publishing.

The most popular books of the holiday season have become cat toys in a price war between online and offline retailers. Newspapers still hang onto a portion of seasonal ads, but the retail chains that place them have consolidated into a much smaller cohort, and much of their spending is bifurcated between old and new media marketing. Magazines intended to help the reader primp for Christmas parties are, in many cases, half as big as they were just a few short years ago.

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