“The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral and social being” – Thomas Jefferson
As our country’s founding fathers recognized, the power and importance of the press is a critical corner stone for our society. Media drives awareness which leads to knowledge; empowering all citizens to be informed and educated about our local & national issues. As technology advances, how we consume media may have changed. However, one truth remains the same; people want information from trusted sources.
On a day with front-page, headline-worthy news, our LT ’18 class experienced that first hand by meeting with a number of those trusted sources in the Tampa media. While many of our LT days focus on Tampa-specific challenges, Media Day was unique in that many of the challenges and issues the media face are global and industry-wide. We got a peak behind the curtain at how Tampa media outlets are addressing and embracing those changes and challenges.
Industry-wide, two challenges appeared multiple times over the course of Media Day: Technology & Fake News. From the Tampa Bay Times to WFLA, we learned how technology has changed our behaviors and the way we consume media and how the media is evolving to address that shift. The question isn’t: will the public consume media. The question is: HOW will the public will consume media and how will the media adjust and evolve to reach consumers as their consumption habits change.
Similarly, fake news was top of mind and clearly a daily struggle for all outlets in the media. Although it has almost become a self-parody and ‘fake’ is more a euphemism for something that doesn’t conform to one’s beliefs, it is still a daily struggle. Today, anyone with a computer and internet can be a journalist or a news source, so fake news has highlighted the importance of verification, vetting, and a relationship of trust that must be earned with consumers.
“There is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily. Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.” – John F. Kennedy
Our day began at the Tampa Bay Times Printing Press where we learned that it truly is “our newspaper” as it is one of the only independent and locally owned papers in the country. Delivering over 200,000 papers a day, the Tampa Bay Times is a “daily miracle”. While there is a public perception that newspapers are dying, the media plays a large role in facilitating the misconception that the industry is falling off a cliff. From their perspective, the Tampa Bay Times must equate to truth, high caliber journalism, and provide high quality, local news to remain relevant.
In an interesting dichotomy of perspectives, we also heard from David Capece, the Founder and CEO of Sparxoo, a digital marketing agency. Digital marketing is the fastest growing part of the media industry and is constantly evolving. In 2017, digital will overtake television in terms of overall media spend, and brands must keep up! While digital has become incredibly more sophisticated and targeted, at the end of the day humans still rule.
We see this across all elements of the media industry: as things change, what stays the same? The basics: customer acquisition and retention (awareness and engagement). How we reach them has changed and the platforms continue to evolve, but the need for content, the need for brand awareness remains the same.
“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech” – Benjamin Franklin
For lunch, we traveled to iHeart Media and learned about the power, influence and reach of the radio industry. As a whole, we spend 31% more time in our cars since 2003, and radio is able to reach more adults than leading broadcast television shows. “Radio likes a good traffic jam” and with the average commute in Tampa at 30 minutes, the Tampa radio market is large and ranked #18 in the country with iHeart Media owning 11 stations locally. iHeart Media owns over 850 radio stations nationally, but they also have an incredibly large digital platform and have relationships with many of the world’s largest artists and events. They are evolving as technology evolves and are keeping a pulse on what is relevant in this ever-changing media landscape.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” – George Washington
Our final stop on Media Day was at WFLA, the local NBC station. NBC News ‘On Your Side’ aims to bring stories and news that matter the most to the people of Tampa, which is the 13th largest market in the country. While TV viewership is up, the audience is much more fragmented with so many options to choose from making it more difficult to reach and retain an audience. Echoing what we heard throughout the day, for WFLA, creating trust with their audience and being known as a reputable news outlet is of the upmost importance. We had the privilege of touring the station and getting a better understanding of the different roles and responsibilities involved with making the news!
In 2017, information moves at lightning speed. On a daily basis, every media outlet we visited is responsible for vetting, researching, and reporting accurate news in the fastest way possible. At the same time, they are trying to stay one step ahead, not just from a news perspective but from a technology perspective. There is a convergence of media with overlap and duplication of content. So how does each media outlet ensure they are still relevant and still being consumed, regardless of platform? This isn’t just a challenge locally but globally, and the ones who will continue to thrive will be those who are trusted, innovative, and daring.