All the power has shifted to the audience and media businesses who can’t get their heads around that simply won’t survive.
That’s the view of media veteran and former CEO of News Corp Kim Williams who has given a wide-ranging interview to B&T.
Williams agrees the entire media model is an absolute state of flux – primarily from the all persuasive power of digital – and, in the process, the audience is now the boss and that’s left traditional media outlets battered, bruised and wondering where to go next.
“What we’re seeing now is a massive power transfer from producers to consumers,” Williams said. “In the past everything was about a producer saying, ‘you (the audience) are now allowed to watch this’ but now the audience is saying ‘I want to watch this now and I’m going to.’”
Williams said audiences are becoming an “on-demand audience” save for big, live sporting and news events; the things that television could still do well.
As for the media outlets that would struggle and quite possibly fail in this disruptive age, Williams said it will be the “ones who disrespect the audience, who are completely in denial about the nature of digital disruption and digital change; who are not investing in things that are really compelling and not magnetic for an audience and who have an incapacity to innovate and change. They will all die.”
Although reticent to name names of media outlets and mediums that would most likely flounder, Williams did save some vitriol for the newspaper game in what could be construed as a subtle swipe at his former employer News Corp.
“For many reasons, which I find deeply puzzling, is the way newspapers speak about if it’s about the delivery; as if there’s something sacred and inherently beautiful and exquisitely separate and necessary with their attachment to print.
“But the audience doesn’t see it that way, the audience wants its information now, the audience wants to capture the material in a variety of different technology formats. The audience now has no difficulty moving seamlessly between print, text, audio and video and the audience is in no way absolutely technologically absolute; maybe people over 60 are, but people under that age certainly aren’t and people under the age of 30 are utterly indifferent to print. In fact, I think they’re mostly aggressively against print and they’re much more interested in their mobile devices.
“Newspapers often take this stance that print is sacred, that print is what it’s about; it’s not about the technology, it’s about the information,” he said.
The ex-newspaper boss said people needed to stop confusing the end of newspapers with the end of quality journalism.
Williams admitted he was “completely indifferent” about print’s future and added, “what matters is that journalism writes strongly and supremely forward and that good journalism and good commentary and good analysis and good review are the things that are triumphant and transcendent, those things are fundamental to democracy; it’s got fuck-all to do with the actual delivery technology – pardon my language!”
And like the media companies themselves, Williams believed advertisers too would be chasing the audience.
“The advertiser will always follow the audience, the advertiser has never been brave enough to do something on a standalone basis,” he said. “The advertiser wants to know the numbers and will put the money there. Again, that just proves the audience is now in charge.”