“We are in an information war. And we are losing that war. I’ll be quite blunt in my assessment.” Hillary Clinton, testifying before Congress March 2011
You don’t even have to take Hillary’s word for it. The YouTube videos posted for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News combined are out-viewed by RT alone at more than a 100:1 rate.
1 Million CNN/Fox/MSNBC views = 100 million RT views
Regardless of how you feel about their content, you should take note: People’s viewing habits are changing. Their impact on public opinion is profound, and will continue to grow.
The mainstream media is slowly dying, and they know it. CNN has lost 60% of their audience in the last 3 years. People are tired of having their news fed to them by talking heads. The public wants the truth.
Drudge Report is another prime example. Over 40 million Americans now list Drudge as one of their primary news sources.
Pulled from their website, as I wrote this:
VISITS TO DRUDGE 08/16/13
031,417,201 PAST 24 HOURS
913,023,172 PAST 31 DAYS
11,831,566,269 PAST YEAR
In case you’re not familiar with it, Drudge is not a traditional media source. It’s a hub of sources. It allows the user to browse a relatively large amount of potential content in a very small space, and select what they want to see. Unlike the mainstream networks which present much more packaged content.
Whether Drudge remains popular or not, take note of its model. It is the future of media. Welcome to it.
Let’s define a quanta as: 1 page read, one video view, one email, or one link or photo share.
Take the number of visits and multiply by the average of six links each user clicks:
31 million users a day X 6 links = 180 million quanta.
Let’s say each person shares one link with a friend:
180 million + 31 million = 210 million quanta
If every sixth friend re-links something:
210 million + 5.16 million = 215 million quanta
So what does this mean? Let’s put this in a real frame of reference:
The Nielsen ratings still track the TV viewing habits of Americans, so that broadcasters can price advertising and tailor their programming to their target audience. A long standing benchmark for a successful TV show is about 20 million viewers. At the pinnacle of TV success, the 2012 Superbowl drew 111.3 million viewers.
The Bottom Line:
A site like Drudge generates the content views of 11 successful TV shows, or 2 Super Bowls. Every single day.
Don’t think the mainstream networks haven’t noticed this…
In recent months, we’ve begun to see creep of alternative media stories into the mainstream. The old networks are having to cover these stories, just to hold the viewers they already have. Money talks, and people aren’t buying their product anymore. Content restructure will be necessary to retain advertising revenues at the levels they’re used to. Eventually, they will need to overhaul their business model, or they will lose their relevance in a culture that is increasingly driven by the Internet.
But aside from the difference in exposure, the more staggering implication of alternative media is the cost difference. Mainstream media outlets spend billions of dollars per year, on employee salaries, travel, hiring, production, and advertising. Alternative media, by comparison, is almost free. Anyone can participate, with as little effort as sharing a few links.
All wars, including media ones, boil down to cost efficiency. You will eventually lose if you can’t keep your Total Energy Costs less than your adversaries. The mainstream is at a catastrophic disadvantage in this respect. Today, they are still the big sharks in the tank, but the piranhas are loose and feasting.
As we move into the future, media will decentralize, the costs will decline to historic lows, and the focus will shift to what viewers want to see, not what media CEOs and talking heads have decided is important. That won’t prevent some in the old guard from sticking to their warhorses to the bitter end.
Let them cling while they still can. Feast on!