In a shot heard 'round every newsroom in America, the venerable Christian Science Monitor announced last week that it will no longer print its daily edition, ending a 100 year tradition. Instead, the bulk of the publication's material will only be available online. This is an event that newspaper veterans have seen coming for years, but now that it's here, others will follow suit over the next several years. Tom Brokaw, during a tour of the Washington Post newsroom last year, predicted that the print edition had less than a decade left. He may have been too conservative as the way Americans consume their news has changed a great deal in recent years, and the "hard" version of newspapers may become extinct sooner rather than later.
Part of the challenge, of course, is that the newspaper is essentially a subscription-based business. Sure, you can buy the Times, or the Globe, or the News each day at a newsstand or from a vending machine, but the model of subscribing to a newspaper is being challenged by the cheap, fast, and immediate benefit of reading news online. Even in television, there's a cost (for most people), depending on whether you have a dish or you're connected by a cable. You know that consumers are assessing their monthly "entertainment fees" - TV access, hi-speed Internet, premium movie channels, mobile phones, and yes, satellite radio.
But then there's broadcast radio. Yes, it's free - no subscription required, so that is happily congruent with these economically challenged times. And yes, it's everywhere. During a time when consumers are going to be pulling in the reins, spending less, not going out as much, and backing away from paid entertainment, how can radio become the medium that regains popularity during these recessionary times?
Our personalities, our promotions, our community efforts, and even our music need to maintain a certain level to get us through these tough times, and perhaps capture a larger share of the market. In past recessions, strong brands that maintained and grew their quality, and actually took the offensive, survived - and thrived. As difficult as these times promise to be, radio actually has a chance to become more vital to consumers.