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Monday, July 06, 2009

The Death Of Traditional Media
By, Bob Lefsetz

The story was broken on TMZ and spread on Twitter. Not only was the straight media caught flat-footed, stating that it was playing by traditional rules, waiting for confirmation, it let TMZ continue to own the story.

In other words, in the future, if a story is breaking, you will not go to nytimes.com. You'll fire up TMZ, or maybe CNN.com, which provided heavily-watched video of the inauguration and the Presidential debates, instead.

When newspapers were the only game in town they could survive by being all things to all people. But that model has evaporated, as quickly as the concept of the ubiquitous pop star. We don't want that which appeals to everybody, we want that which appeals to us!

I get three physical newspapers a day. But like the commentator said on the "Daily Show", it's "aged news" (http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=230076&title=end-times). The "New York Times" was so stupid as to let Jason Jones inside their building, not realizing they'd be ridiculed. These are the people we want reporting our news?

And the old saw that websites just repost the stories of traditional reporters... Well, that was blown out of the water by TMZ. TMZ has its own sources, does its own reporting. If there's a gossip story, that's where I'm going. Even Perez Hilton doesn't realize the change. He's been relegated to commentator status. He's become niche overnight. We want the gossip facts, and for that information we're going to the source, TMZ. If Perez wants to compete he's got to hire reporters, pay off tipsters. Now he's what he's become. A self-promoting tyke. Perez is famous, he's created a mini-industry where he gets on TV and sells books. He's a star. Hopefully, he's happy. Because he's no longer the king of gossip.

So do one thing incredibly well.

Not only did the traditional media miss the Michael Jackson story, it didn't own it. And it's not only the newspapers, but TV. We didn't want others' opinions, we wanted the story! The story wasn't Lou Ferrigno talking about working out, but what drugs truly killed Michael Jackson. Give credit to the AP, they got an exclusive with Michael's nutritionist, about the anesthetic. On TV, we got has-been celebrities talking about their distant memories.

So good riddance to newspapers. Who were too stupid to know that the landscape had changed and too stupid to change with it.

If the "New York Times" is so good, why didn't they put a whole team of professionals on this story, who could have ferreted out the details we wanted to know? Why didn't they put a box on their homepage, linking us to a plethora of stories? The L.A. "Times" tried the latter, but failed, because they had almost no reporting. We're supposed to support you after you fire everybody? No way.

TMZ stayed on the story. Even when scooped by the AP, they didn't ignore the anesthesia story, but reported it.

We got the news we wanted, with deep reporting.

That's what we want now. Incredible depth about what we're interested in.

Don't load your band's website with an entrance page and tons of Flash. That's good for people who go once! But true fans go multiple times and are frustrated by the delay. Make your site fast, with a constant stream of new information displayed, so people will come back and get what they want. This is how labels blew it on the web. They didn't exploit their own sites, and the public went elsewhere. As for labels, are they that different from newspapers? Is there really a need for one company which releases product in a multitude of genres? It made sense in the era of physical distribution, when terrestrial radio was king. But haven't we seen that trying to be all things to all people in the internet era is a failed strategy? If you're going to consolidate acts, have a pop label, or a metal label, get people to be fans of your label the same way those interested in gossip are fans of TMZ.

The Album Is Dead

How come no one is writing this story? That Michael Jackson sold so few albums in the wake of his death?


MJ only sold 422,000 albums. But he sold 2.3 million individual tracks!

Now that album figure is physical and digital combined. 225,000 were digital. And there was only so much physical product in the stores. But it turns out that online people only want the single!

Are you getting this? A legendary artist, with at least two classic albums, and most people just want to cherry-pick the singles.

Even more fascinating is that through Wednesday, the "Thriller" video had been streamed more than 8.5 million times online.

In other words, are the labels' woes related to piracy or a changing marketplace?

Turns out for many a view of the "Thriller" video was better than owning the track.

And those who need tracks, who are paying for the privilege, don't want to buy a bundle, but just what they desire.

So, if you're making albums, know that you're making them for the core. Everyman might like a single, but he doesn't want the album. You could say he's been burned by too many filler cuts packaged at too high a price, but I'd say it's got more to do with time. Who's got the time to listen to an hour of music that you're not truly interested in when there are all these other diversions that fascinate you?

If you're a pop act, you're screwed. Because no one thinks your albums are any good. Despite a few exceptions, most people believe the touring rock acts, who've been at it for years, are the ones creating a body of work that is worth owning and investigating. The pop single is an evanescent artifact. It's hard to reap huge financial rewards on evanescent artifacts. In other words, the web might kill the pop star. Video killed the rock star and replaced him with a pop star, the web is bringing the rock star back. Someone who knows how to play, who you bond with based on his music and identity as opposed to his looks and his hired creative posse is positioned well for the future.

And that future will involve multiple revenue streams in order to make your money. Not just recorded music, but live and merch and fan clubs. It's not about ripping people off, but charging them to get closer!

Joe Jackson's Faux Pas

You screw up on video, it lives forever.

Hyping your new business venture at the BET Awards when your son just died is not only in poor taste, your faux pas lives in perpetuity online, tainting you.

The era of hype, of self-promotion, of acts going on the MTV Video Music Awards and telling you to buy their new album, are done. We don't want to see you sell. We want you to create great shit that sells itself. We determine what's worthwhile. If your hype is better than your product, you're screwed.

Kind of like Josh Freese. Brilliant marketing. Has anybody listened to his music, does anybody care?

Start at 3:25 if you don't want to watch the whole clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H27665VPRmQ&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo%2Egoogle%2Ecom%2Fvideosearch%3Fclient%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%2Dus%26q%3Djoe%2520jackson%2520bet%2520awards%26oe%3DUTF%2D8%26um%3D1%26ie%3DUTF%2D8%26sa%3DN%26hl%3Den%26tab&feature=player_embedded


Everybody knows who MIchael Jackson was. Today many don't know what the number one record is and don't care. There's a chart, but it's a sideshow. Asking someone to recite the Top Ten is like asking them to name the ten best Little League teams. Parents care about their kids' teams, but it ends there. The machine foisting these concoctions upon the public just doesn't realize that most people don't care. It's not about making them care, eradicating piracy, but what the public cares about! You can't castigate the public, you must entice it! You must earn people's attention. And then respect them in the ongoing relationship. Rip a person off once, and not only will you lose that individual as a customer, you'll lose a whole swath of the public when that person tells everybody he knows online.

We're living in a changed universe. The web enables ubiquity, but how many people will want to buy a Susan Boyle album, even a single, in five years? Two years? One? There's train-wreck value, but not lasting value.

We may never have mass grieving for a pop star again. It's the end of an era.

That's the story here. We're not only mourning Michael Jackson, we're mourning MTV, Top Forty radio, albums and our collective youth. Memories are great, but the old days are not coming back.

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