How serious a downturn? Media pros don’t ask the Times

Early last year, or maybe the year before, I bought the domain WorkingClassMBA.com – don’t go there, it’s not active. It was a joke. At the time my studio was feeling the early signs of economic contraction, our margins were being squeezed, and we thought it would be funny to chronicle the less than glamorous life of a couple of MBAs. I’m glad we didn’t. It would look pretty tasteless today. Shortly thereafter opportunity knocked and I was off to my current gig, but that studio and Xprove continue to grow.

Today that URL is no joke. The New York Times featured this story about the situation faced by many formerly high-salaried professionals. Many of us in the media business have spent a good portion of our careers “between positions” and “freelancing here and there.” We’re used to our fortunes being closely tied to the business cycles, but not your typical executive. He or she has made $150,000/year rain or shine.

Nine months ago [Mark Cooper] lost his job as the security manager for the western United States for a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a budget of $1.2 million and earning about $70,000 a year. Now he is grateful for the $12 an hour he makes in what is known in unemployment circles as a “survival job” at a friend’s janitorial services company.

No need to rehash freshman econ. The ripple effect is profound. There’s no point in advertising a Lexus to Mr. Cooper. In fact there’s little to be gained advertising the Denny’s $3 breakfast special to him. As advertising dollars shrink, the media – already hurting – further contracts.

So it was with more than a little surprise when I read Gail Collins column in the same NY times. Her shock that soap operas are stooping to product placement to generate revenue is, well, shocking. They’re called soap operas for a reason. Their job is to sell soap. In the broadcast model, entertainment is a catalyst for economic activity – not an end unto itself.

Collins is a very entertaining and often spot-on columnist, so I was ready to cut her some slack until I saw this among the most emailed articles from today’s Times. Broadcast TV Faces Struggle to Remain Viable – an excerpt:

The future for the networks, it seems, is more low-cost reality shows, more news and talk, and a greater effort to find new revenue streams, whether they be from receiving subscriber fees as cable channels do, or becoming cable networks themselves, an idea that has gained currency.

You don’t say, Gray Lady. What have your media writers been watching for the last decade?

One Thought on “How serious a downturn? Media pros don’t ask the Times

  1. Guynoir on March 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm said:

    The NYT has spent a lot of the last 10 years whining to the City of New York about how they need to build a new building and how the city had to give them all kinds of favors that you and I would never enjoy. Then they promptly ran aground.

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