l33t magz

October 3rd, 2006  |  Published in etc

The Economist effect: Not all news media are dumbing it down | csmonitor.com:

Time magazine is changing its publishing schedule in January. The potential good news for people sick of the news weeklies:

Time’s new publishing schedule will mean it hits the streets on the same day as its British competitor. And Time’s idea about circulation, placing less emphasis on quantity, suggests an approach that several publications, including The Economist, have pursued: It’s not how many subscribers you have; it’s who they are.

The strategy is practiced by media outlets that are sometimes called the “elite media.” They aim at better educated, more-affluent audiences that have more money to spend on news and are more desirable to advertisers. The news outlets that serve them place a premium on trying to bring more depth and breadth to their coverage.

Among newspapers, the rise of the elite media can be seen in the growing and increasingly nationalized circulations of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. On radio, it can be calculated in the increase of National Public Radio’s audience. In magazines, the prime example is The Economist.

The article seems to think this might presage an, er, economistesque turn for Time, which would be fine by me. Or it could mean Time is going to head more in the direction of The Week, which I don’t like nearly as much, but I can see appealing to a certain demographic that has the sort of money “elite media” plays are aimed at.

The dark side of the trend covered in the article is found in the bit at the end:

As wealthier, more news-focused audiences leave mainstream outlets, those outlets will be forced to reach out to different groups to fill the holes in their audience – groups that probably have lighter definitions of news. In other words, a small group of coverage-rich news media will get richer while the rest get poorer in their content.

Is that good or bad? Both, probably. But good or bad, if we drift down that road, it will mean a different kind of democracy and a different society.

Just think, there may come a day not too long from now when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s baby not only finds time on the network news – as baby Suri did last week on CBS – but leads the newscast. The good news is you won’t have to watch it. The bad news is a lot of others will tune in and possibly find little else.

Network news getting worse? Wow.

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