Unmediated Disaster

Media in Canada

Sun Media Corp. which owns Vancouver’s 24 Hours free daily newspaper, as well as 42 other papers across Canada, cut 600 workers recently, most from its editorial departments. This follows previous cuts by other newspaper chains such as Canwest Global Communications Corp., which owns the Vancouver Sun and The Province and Torstar, which owns the Metro free daily. Get used to it, because you’re going to be hearing more of this kind of news over the next year. The daily media industry is in absolute turmoil. The recession, which cuts their advertising base, is only the latest problem to attack what is essentially a 19th Century industry. Think about it: A newspaper is an industrial product that’s delivered to your home each day, a leftover from the days when people could sit around after dinner and catch up on the news. Its purpose may be information delivery, but its business operation is purely industrial, which requires huge infrastructure such as printing plants, masses of paper, and armies of workers. Aligned against it is online media, which can deliver “the news” much faster, much more directly, and much much cheaper. We can argue about the relative value of one form over another, but the arguments are usually arcane and based more on emotion than fact. The march to change in the media is inevitable. Already, some newspapers have cut home delivery down to a few days a week – the days when they carry the most advertising. Others are desperately trying to beef up their online presence, but the old advertising model mitigates against it. Who wants to load megabites of advertising to get at information? Easier to just get it from Google, or other media who have developed website to reflect modern usage patters such as mobile smartphones. . An interesting statistic out of the US has it that something like $18 billion dollars of local print advertising is moving online in 2009, and about 55% of that will be captured by newspapers. That’s a pretty big hole in the balance sheet. So expect change to continue.