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FYI

Media Beat: January 03, 2020

Excuse my deviating from the norm in not providing a catch-all of fascinating headlines summarizing the goings-on in the media landscape over the holiday season, but I thought I’d say a few words a

Media Beat: January 03, 2020

By David Farrell

Excuse my deviating from the norm in not providing a catch-all of fascinating headlines summarizing the goings-on in the media landscape over the holiday season, but I thought I’d say a few words about how I see the year in redux—and “into the future” (quoting a line from Steve Miller’s famously overlooked first album).


RADIO: I’ve read a lot of guff about how radio remains robust and ubiquitous. On the plus side, for the first time in a donkey’s age over Christmas I found a miniature AM/FM radio set for sale in Best Buy, with a very affordable $25 ticket price. For the past half-decade, I hadn’t been able to find a single radio available in electronics stores excepting a solitary table-top edition that sells for $100-plus.  

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Does this mean the tide is turning?

I don’t think so.

Does this mean the kids are going to be lining up to make the purchase?

I rather doubt it.

The statistics may claim otherwise, but I don’t know anyone under 25 who is listening to the radio today outside the car, and more than a few are Ubering it these days. Those that do listen are listening to News and Sports.

Music radio is living in the mortuary. Sorry, but it is true. Until some brave soul is willing to act like Donald Trump and disrupt the static world of playing a conformity of hits (past and present) sandwiched between a mindless line-up of truly uninspiring ads, the allure of radio is going to remain as exciting as a showroom of politicians wearing the same navy blue suits and trotting out banalities with empty conviction.

And on the subject of ads on the radio, what’s with the squeaky voices that sound unnatural, and do little to help sell us in the belief that a trip to a mattress store is gonna make our day. The pitch voices are awful, and the intonation so off-kilter that I’m often left thinking someone must be squeezing the life out of them. People don’t sound the way they do on commercials. The voices mostly sound fake, unconvincing, wretched. Much the same can be said for talking books, but it’s radio I’m sandblasting today.

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So, radio is alive and well in as far as it isn’t in the emergency ward…YET, but there’s little kindling available to light a fire with, and something has to give. The accountants have strip-mined most of the assets and left us with audio editions of chamomile tea.   Argue otherwise, PLEASE!

PRINT: In case you missed the fact, I’ve been a print guy since Gutenberg was knee-high to a sapling.

I’m the guy who loved the smell of printer’s ink. Routinely I soiled whatever I was wearing, getting the damned ink on my clothes. I also had the pleasure of seeing newspapers rolling off the presses, and I can even remember a time when typesetters set up pages on wooden blocks with lead type. Call me ancient, but I’ve been called far worse.

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The newsstands are all but gone, and newspapers now so thin one can read them in a minute. The fascination with the discovery has been doused, replaced with inverted pyramids of wire copy and garnished with a smattering of unique voices trying to shed light on the coal mine.

Oh, print still breaks stories, but the medium gets no credit and the costs to produce spiral as the losses mount. It isn’t even the beginning of the end these days. It’s a countdown to High Noon, and my most loved magazine reads too are becoming less and less absorbing.

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Publishers are trying to fight the stampede by creating more space for advertorials; but this fodder neither satiates the thirst advertisers or readers want quenched. A curious oddity I found over the holiday was a weekday edition of Le Journal de Montréal that was thicker than the Post, Globe and Mail and The Star combined. Still, it is an oddity, and it too must face the consequence of an uncaring world that has fled with the goods to the freemium digital space.

The new decade will undoubtedly see a gentle uptick in online subscriptions. I forget who it was that predicted information would become commoditized and that the one-percenters would have the real deal leaving the prols to sift through a mountain of unverified facts and false information. With 2020 being a gerrymandered election year in the disUnited States, media are going to be squawking like seagulls chasing a fleet of herring boats coming into shore. The din will be heard around the world, and when the dust has settled, calamitous times will continue, and the gravy boat for media will be over.

There’s a big upset that is going to happen across media as cable, network TV, print and a great many online portals falter and fail. It’s a glum forecast, which is not to say the end of the world is at hand. That ship has sailed (just kidding), but a seismic change is coming that will reshape who and perhaps even what we are.   

Which leads me to podcasting. As the number of podcasts increases, so too the pressure to commoditize the medium. The big brands will be successful with a smaller inventory of shows, a few like Michael Moore will be outliers with an audience willing to pay to subscribe, and a lack of recompense for a hoard of Waldos will inevitably lead to a culling of the herd.

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Wise words?

Perhaps not!

Uplifting?

Absolutely not!

Rational thinking? Maybe!

Thank heaven for Gary Slaight, who continues to underwrite the cost of FYI and gives a voice to Canada’s allied music industries in a world seemingly gone to pot.

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