You Can't Cut Your Way To Change

Last Monday, when I was handling client media relations work in a large Midwest market, a television reporter let me know she was working with me on her first day back from furlough. She, like many other media professionals across the country, was forced to take an unpaid week off. For her, remarkably, it happened in early November.

When I worked in TV news, I was told the only way I could take a day off in November (the month’s ratings set key 4th quarter ad rates), would be to call in sick from a hospital bed. What has changed between now and then? More than this space will allow. For one, though, it shows that the top priority is now not making money, it’s saving money.

I always said, when I worked in TV in the booming 90s, that TV stations were run like we were living in a recession, even though we weren’t. That’s because spending always seemed to be curbed in order to meet corporate profit margin mandates that ranged from 20 to 50 percent, depending on the owner and the year. Now, in a national recession, I can’t even imagine. In the face of an unprecedented need to change, most media owners are trying to cut their way toward their futures.

One new study shows that simply, that won’t work. If you work in media, PR or any related field, take some time and read this report by experts from the University of North Carolina and Yale University. It’s relatively quick read for an academic survey. Essentially, it says that whatever media companies have been doing since the dawn of the Internet revolution 15 years ago hasn’t worked and won’t work if the objective is to remain in business for the next 15 years. And it provides some examples from previous eras to serve as examples for CEOs who desperately need a plan, as their products are no longer “mass media.”

The mantra inside media organizations seems to be “Save Money. Save Money. Save Money.” Instead, this report shows (and it’s easy, as consumers, to agree), it should be “Reinvent. Reinvent. Reinvent.”