Thursday, 14 June 2012 08:48

New Orleans Times Picayune digital media future shock is no gas

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out-of-gasThese past two days have been brutal for many in the Louisiana media industry. 

 Brutal, because so many people we know and like and even some whom we dislike did not make the  Times Picayune “cut”, this week.

As a result, we feel the pain, the human pain of real people with real families who are now facing the job market or soon to be facing this competitive man-eat-dog world for the first time in a while.  For some, it could be the first, ever.

 Without question, I believe all of us would have loved for the TP to have done a better  job in the transition to digital media.   It has been more than messy. 

 Ultimately, however, in my view, it had to be done in some fashion, along some timeline.

 At some point in time down the road, the Times Picayune and so many other publications in Louisiana and throughout the world must  face the harsh realities—newspapers are now paper thin as far as their traditional ways of doing business.

The advertisers are not there to justify the higher costs of production compared to digital media.

Certainly, electronic media is not cheap at all.  There are hardware, software, maintenance and all of the other expenses one can imagine.  

However, the comparative costs are significant as the expense to publish and circulate content is miraculously cheaper than that of print.   

I know there are many people in this area who are calling for the boycott of the Times Picayune and of  The anger is visceral, palpable  and can be cut with a feather.

Boycott or not is these protesters call, certainly not mine.   Nor, is boycotting my preference.

Instead, as I have publically mentioned before, those businesses who feel the seven day per week paper edition is absolutely critical to their survival, then they should follow their convictions with their money.  Please do advertise in the paper TP.   They want green, not spleen. 

Yet, while calling for these advertisers to spend their paper dollars on a paper product, I must confess that I personally believe the Internet is a much better advertising forum and investment.  On the web, an advertiser not only receives branding with their ads but interactivity.  To the best of my knowledge, it is difficult, if not impossible to click on a piece of paper and go to a website although there is bar code and other technology that can marry a newspaper or magazine to the web.  That technology actually increases web traffic which defeats the purpose. 

The truth is, those technologies only delay the inevitable.   Digital media will replace paper and will do so probably sooner rather than later and much sooner than I anticipated years ago when I first wrote and talked about these issues. 

Instead, I personally feel that the community should move rapidly into the electronic world.  We must embrace it openly.  We should not blame technology (as I believe some are doing) for the sudden disruption of jobs and lives.   Unless we invest as individuals,  families, schools, communities, cities, states and as governments,  we will not be able to compete in the world economy or even in this nation’s economy. 

I find it shocking to hear the lack of voices coming from our government leaders over this major industry conversion or information future shock. While the TP’s choice is a decision by a private sector player, in many ways, newspapers, especially those that are considered to be the official journals and who receive public money, are in the public trust. 

This sudden turn of events should tell us one thing for certain.  As a total state community, we must fess up and pony up that the issue of digital divide is not a fantasy.  I do not just mean the digital divide between the technology-haves versus the have-nots or the rich versus the poor, the young versus the old, the educated versus the uneducated and so on. 

No, I am directly and also referring to New Orleans and Louisiana versus the rest of the world.

Right now, we lack the infrastructure needed to compete in the world of digital media.  While, I am elated  that an idea of mine is now contributing to the largest growth industry in the state (Digital Media Law),  our schools, our universities, our infrastructures and our emphasis--simply are not there. 

Comparing our education curriculum in digital media to that of other states is like comparing Hyde to Jekyll.    

Our community cannot hide from the fact that we are divided, not by good and evil, but by the future and the past.  

It is time for our governmental and business leaders to decide which course they prefer to take as all of us gas up our proverbial life's vehicles and accelerate down the uncertain roads of the future.

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