As this goes to pixel, I have been out of television news for exactly five years. That’s 1,827 days out of the industry that I thought would be my last. That’s 1,827 consecutive days of not wishing, for a moment, that I was back in news.
Fortunately, I still have several friends who thanklessly toil in a business where everyone assumes you make six figures and have Ruth’s Chris delivered to the hot tub behind the guest house. The reality is that many of them stand a better chance of working in the steak delivery business than in broadcast news.
I’m not going to quote a stack of statistics for you about the shrinking news industry, because those stats will be stale before I finish. If you want to see the real-time toll of the contracting news industry, I suggest you subscribe to the RSS feed for TheMediaIsDying on Twitter. No, I’m going to tell you what you can expect from the next wave of layoffs.
- More competition for your job. News people, as a whole, are a crafty lot. Print or broadcast, they have skill sets that most employers would drool over. Most coming out of news and into the general corporate communications landscape lack only the knowledge of how to properly package themselves. They don’t wilt under deadlines and are already working harder than you are for less money.
- Fewer outlets for your message With fewer people on the streets gathering news, there will be fewer stories. FAR fewer than you would think. A fifteen-percent reduction in reporters will lead to a forty-percent drop in the number of stories produced. When there is slack in filling newshole, it goes toward enterprise pieces. When the fat is trimmed from the newsroom, the remaining crew will be chasing the same top stories. You’ll either be in the news cycle or completely out.
- Greater chance to shape your story When your story does get attention, you will have a greater opportunity to frame it. Trying to do more with fewer resources means newsrooms will rely on those sources even further to shape and direct. Less time for oversight, less time for fact-checking.
- More reliance on non-traditional outlets Earned media will be less third-party and more in your own hands. Either through social media or direct-to-audience channels, you’ll have to be more creative in seeing your story through. This also applies to what will remain from the mainstream outlets, such as providing video to newspaper websites, and embedded slideshows to television.
- Metric madness Measurement will continue to get more convoluted and fractured. It’s bad enough that we don’t agree on how to measure, but the pace with which we discard metrics will continue to accelerate. Whether it’s web-based or broadcast or print, we all want to know what is effective, but won’t always agree on the definition. This is where you can shine over the new converts from the newsrooms, as they typically don’t have grounding in corporate goals or in measurement.
Every contraction in the business cycle is painful, and each one is different in challenge and character. As the competition cranks up, knowing what you’ll face will be more than half the battle.