The “Dying” Media Issue
Letter from the Editor
September 8, 2015
While talking to my Colombian grandmother on the phone a couple of weeks ago she gave me a valuable piece of career advice: “Valentina, when the Internet becomes popular, no one is ever going to read a print newspaper, they’re just going to go to a computer.” Granted, she only reads the newspaper for the obituaries and hasn’t really used the Internet since 2006, but she’s right. Most of us get our news online, not from print newspapers.
The media industry has been changing drastically for several decades, and it’s time for us to catch up. For the past 43 years, WSN has been publishing in print at least 4 times a week, and as wonderful as it’s been, it’s just not the way news works anymore. In the most drastic change in several years, WSN will now be publishing in print once a week. We will still publish online daily, but our print issues will look slightly different, they will be longer, and will showcase one of our strengths, long-form pieces.
And it is not just newspapers that are affected by the shift in how people consume media. The desire for on-demand content have made it so that radio and television are no longer the go-to for news and entertainment. That is why, for our first redesigned issue, we looked into how the student media at NYU — WNYU and NYU-TV — are adjusting with the times.
We named this the Dying Media Issue, but that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Radio, television and newspapers are a cornerstone of society, and are by no means dying — but they are changing. But if we’re wrong and newspapers, radio and television actually are on their way out, I can always follow my grandmother’s other career advice: go into advertising.
Is Television Dead?
Remember those days when you had to anxiously hurry home, sit on your couch and wait for your favorite TV show to start? Well, those days are probably over. For good.
With more and more viewers streaming content online, TV networks find themselves in a position where they have to revamp their presence. A Deloitte study published earlier this year showed 53 percent of viewers prefer streaming TV, while 45 percent of viewers still choose to watch TV programming live.
This trend also applies to student media outlets like NYU-TV, an administrative department within the NYU Division of Libraries that offers two 24-hour channels for students on NYU Cable. NYU-TV content specialist Nora Lambert said they have worked on increasing their web and social media presence to adapt to this new media environment.
“We have to sort of be where the viewers are,” Lambert said. “A major focus for us is to make sure that we get more and more stuff online so that it’s really simple for people to watch it and really engage with it.”
Tisch senior and NYU-TV assistant editor Jens Victor said the industry is shifting toward more video on demand and distributing content directly from the creators to consumers.
“There’s no question that TV and the way it’s being consumed is changing,” Victor said. “Right now, I believe the only thing that’s keeping the traditional cable broadcast system still relevant is the network’s coverage of live events, most of which are already available online.”
Vivian Feke, general manager of TV2, a student-run independent media organization at Kent State University, said they have noticed that many of their viewers access their content online.
“With more news going digital and online to places such as Facebook and Twitter, the impact is increasingly positive in a sense where content is linked together to bring viewers to live streams more often, or to watch more of the videos on a site,” Feke said.
Lambert added that a main reason for the turn to the Internet is the freedom it offers people with accessing content at any time of the day.
“People are not locked into sort of one way of consuming media, they can do it on their own terms and on their own time, and that’s definitely a challenge but it’s also pretty exciting,” Lambert said.
In an effort to adjust to the online-only trend, NYU-TV has worked to offer students HBOGO, an online streaming service NYU students can access in the residence halls. Lambert said because students can access general entertainment through the streaming service, NYU-TV can now focus on providing more NYU-centered content, including coverage of panels and university events.
“We can really focus on picking items that really accompany the scenes that we try to address each month to enrich the students’ experience of the city and of the university,” Lambert said.
Steinhardt visiting assistant professor Jeremy Blatter said while the easy access to the Internet can be beneficial for the audience, it should also be assessed carefully for credibility issues.
“Certainly the accessibility of all kinds of content is incredibly exciting, and I think could be a great boom culturally,” Blatter said. “There’s almost no content that anyone can’t get their hands on. At the same time, one of the disadvantages of that is that the quality of that content is also incredibly diverse.”
An additional challenge for TV networks is how to make streaming services a profitable business for them. On top of that, Tisch junior and NYU-TV student editor Katie Sadler said one of the reasons why consumers prefer streaming services is the lack of advertisements.
“Media companies are going to have to figure out how to make money through these services,” Sadler said. “Most online streaming services make their money through subscription fees or licensing, but I’m sure that many people working for those companies are still wondering if they can make enough money that way.”
While many people think this change is something new for the United States, Steinhardt visiting assistant professor Shawn VanCour said TV has always been more diverse than people tend to think. VanCour explained that in the 1950s there were many delivery vehicles for people to choose from, including living room sets and larger projection screens in bars, theater television with live fights shown on giant screens in specially equipped movie theaters as well as early efforts at paid TV through the Phonevision system, which was used for watching movies at home.
“While the present moment indeed represents an important shift in our television landscape, it also offers an opportunity to question what we think we know about ‘traditional’ forms of television, which were often much more diverse than we commonly recognize,” VanCour said.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected]
Radio Tunes Into the Web
WNYU, the university’s student-run radio station, is pushing toward online content to adapt to the digital age. Though the station has a successful and reputable FM grid, with past guests including The Cure, Björk and Kurt Cobain, WNYU’s general manager and CAS senior Sam Barder said radio isn’t as appealing as it used to be.
“Ten years ago people would have tuned into WNYU if I told them about our station more so than they do now,” Barder said. “Now it is more of a struggle to get more student listeners, but it is not an insurmountable challenge.”
While the switch to online content deemphasizes many traits of old-school radio journalism, it also opens the door to a more convenient source of information and entertainment.
College radio stations across the country have felt pressure to move online, move to HD radio or have even been bought out by other larger radio stations in efforts to stay current. Columbia University’s radio station, WKCR, has created an HD station and regularly asks listeners for pledges and donations.
WNYU, on the other hand, has avoided these modernizing tactics because they get a large portion of their budget from NYU’s Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service. The station is also in a unique position in that its radio band is a residual of the UN radio, so it doesn’t have to pay for the public wavelength.
With funding from the university and its public radio status, WNYU has been able to keep its FM band and maintain a balanced budget. This semester, however, WNYU must begin paying for their antenna’s space, which had previously been leased from Bronx Community College without a fee, according to Barder.
Instead of resorting to pledge drives or HD radio to pay for this new cost, WNYU plans on hosting benefit concerts and merchandise sales.
Despite its commitment to the FM band, WNYU has also adjusted to the domination of the Internet. WNYU has managed to have online content for almost every hour of the day, and Barder said one of his goals this year is to fill the full 24-hour online broadcast.
CAS graduate student Lydia Chain, who studies radio journalism and was a news director at WNYU last year, said the Internet has made radio more accessible.
“With podcasts there is a greater sense of intimacy and immediacy that you don’t necessarily get from the radio,” Chain said. “It’s nice to have it prepackaged — it’s much more convenient. Listeners don’t have to tune in at 7 p.m. on Friday, I can listen instead when I’m doing the dishes.”
Despite their accessibility at any time of the day WNYU program director and CAS senior Tyler Maxin said online podcasts pale in comparison to the authenticity a radio segment offers.
“Radio has a rich history of offering public forums, which gives it a sweet egalitarian feeling that online media doesn’t necessarily offer,” Maxin said. “The Internet is extremely busy — you constantly have to hoister it up with ads. We’re in a moment of the Internet which purports itself to be an extremely accessible medium, but sometimes it comes across as cluttered.”
Associate news director and LS sophomore Rachel Gilman added that the abundance of online news sources makes online publishing less substantial.
“The push toward online content makes the old versions — like in the newspaper or on the radio — less special,” Gilman said. “Anyone can put something online and it has made online production less significant. It’s an oversaturated market.”
Chain added that the use of podcasts can be beneficial to the disk jockey, making the Internet age beneficial to both consumers and producers.
“Running a radio show, there is a lot more pressure to keep things interesting minute to minute because it’s easy for someone to just hit the scan button to a different station,” Chain said. “While podcasts make it harder to get people to tune into the station originally, once a listener has downloaded the podcast and has committed to listening to the show on the subway for a little bit, you have more freedom to experiment with more personal and in depth stories.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email Alanna Bayarin at [email protected]