On Advertising in Media

Duncan Stephen writes

The newspaper industry’s attempt to pin the blame of their woes on Facebook is wrong.

It is not only wrong. It is also telling of the myopia that has caused the media industry’s malaise.

Everyone gets disrupted eventually


Instead, newspapers have lowered their quality. In terms of content, they have generate endless amounts of churnalism, clickbait in the hope that volume alone would save the day. Newspapers have assaulted their own websites with offensive amounts of reader-hostile advertising and trackers.

This is largely one of the major reasons that I use an adblocker. My time and attention are my two most valuable resources, and I'm not going to reward you with them if you treat me like a strip mine.

Unfortunately, most companies forget that that we're actual humans on the other side of this equation. Sure, there are less economies of scale if you treat us as actual human beings, but ultimately you have a higher quality customer base.

Of course that's part of the problem with advertising in the first place - with television and news media the true customers aren't actually the viewers. There's this weird three-way relationship between advertisers, media, and consumers. If the advertisers were just handing us adverts, we wouldn't pay any attention to them. But because we pay for the newspaper, we're going to at least take a look inside. But the advertisers are also paying for the newspaper (and it sounds like they're paying the most for it). What used to happen is we'd get information about our society - local and public - and our newspapers were producing that kind of information for us so they were producing something of value. And by doing that, they were creating a market for the advertisers.

The newspapers used to be chock full of great information, and that's how they captured our attention.

But now we don't really bother looking to the newspaper for information - we can get it from other sources. We can watch the video on YouTube, we can read blurbs on the actual organization website.

The main problem is that our attention is still finite, but we have so many other things that we can spend our attention on and we're no longer limited to the print media as the one source of information. I don't know what these companies need to do, but I don't think they're currently doing it.