Sunday, January 18, 2009

What newspapers can learn from the record industry

By Yong Kim

The news market isn’t the only sector in media being affected by the presence of digital technology.

It was only a few decades ago when the main medium used to listen to music was the compact disc. You know, those thin and shiny plastic looking circles that held information to play audio. Before then, Vinyl was replaced by 8-tracks, and 8-tracks replaced audiocassettes which where then replaced by CDs. People would insert CDs into their six-disc changer in their homes. Joggers used to listen to music while on their run via portable disc players.
But with the creation of electronics and a new digital age, music can now be conveniently stored onto computers, phones, mp3 players, online and any other place where digital information can be recorded.

Thousands upon thousands of audio files can be stored into a tiny iPod or laptop instead of having to carry hundreds of compact discs in a binder or in your car. Even burning discs to make music mixes has become obsolete. People can simply make a
playlist on an audio program like iTunes or windows music player and upload it to their mp3 players.

“The record industry is broken, dying and in bad shape,” said Sreenath Sreenivasan, p
rofessor of professional practice at Columbia University and new media expert.

Digital audio has become the next evolved form in the evolution chain. CDs are big, clumsy and the audio quality decreases over time due to scratching and age. You don’t have to hold digital music. And why drive to a music retailer to buy the latest Beyonce album when you can download it from iTunes for a lower price?

Think about it, when was the last time you saw someone listening to music via CDs or portable walkmans? The majority of people in the US are shifting to the new medium for listening
 music and as a result, the record industry has felt the deepest consequences of the shift in how people listen to music.

The popular Virgin Megastore in Times Square and other locations in New York City is soon to be closing, according to There is speculation according to several news sources as to why they are closing but I’d wager the era of the digitization of music had some impact.

Data on national record sales from Nielsen Co., a market research company, show a 20 percent decrease in physical sales of CDs since 2000 and sales have been off since then. Conversely, there has been a 32% increase of digital album sales in 2008.

The news media and record industry are going through similar circumstances. Why read the news on paper when you can get it online digitally anytime, anywhere? It seems newspapers are being sold or closed down left and right.

But the decline of print readers and CD users isn’t due to lack of information and music. It is due to the slow adaptation of the old business infrastructure to the new.
The problem is with the business model, not the music or artists, Sreenivasa said. It’s the same thing with journalists, he said.

Similar messages of figuring out a new business model that works for the new direction of news have been spoken during meetings with editors and executives in media companies like the Associated Press, Channel 13 and the Columbia Journalism Review.

“The questions is how to pay for it,” said Mike Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. “You have to pay for the reporting somehow.”

Though the consensus seems to be so, no new and effective business model has been created thus far.

And with the bad state of economy on Wall Street and Main Street, who knows where we can go to find the solution.

1 comment:

  1. Yong-

    This is a very good summary about how the media is shifting to the digital age. I think that it will be very interesting to see where things are going to head in the next couple of years, and if the music industry is any indication; the sky is the limit. I think it was especially interesting what Radiohead did last year with the free digital downloads. I believe that this has definitely sent a message to the big corporations showing that anyone can make it on their own nowadays due to the advancement of technology.

    Jordan Kamikawa


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