Is Traditional Media Dead?

Industry experts have forewarned about the decline of traditional media for over a decade now. While the majority of traditional media owners and conglomerates have slowly evolved throughout the years, professionals and workers employed in this sector have been enjoying relative job security.

Seeing that going digital is the only way to stay relevant in the hearts and minds of readers, forward-thinking media owners have also successfully retrained some of their staff to adapt to these changes and become more competent in online content creation and distribution.

However, nothing could have prepared Malaysians for what would transpire after the 14thGeneral Elections. Despite a noticeable improvement in journalism, that traditional media can now report on both sides of the political divide rather than just serve as a mouthpiece of the government, the newfound autonomy has also led to massive changes in media business models.

Perhaps the biggest wake-up call was when a few media giants embarked on more Voluntary Separation Schemes (VSS) and further downsizing in order to streamline their operations. Therefore, it’s unreasonable to blame Malaysians for thinking that “perhaps this is the end of Traditional Media.”

But before we jump to that conclusion, let us evaluate the two different media formats objectively, and look into what is important to people when consuming content in general.

Traditional VS Digital Media

Man working on laptop and woman reading newspaper

  1. Content Delivery – The most obvious difference between traditional and digital media is the method of transmission or the delivery of content. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, flyers and banners are generally known as ‘traditional media’. Digital television is a unique hybrid in which the content delivery is encoded digitally instead of via radio waves, although the experience on the consumer’s side is generally the same.
  2. Digitisation – Digital media on the other hand are media that are encoded in machine-readable formats. Content is created, viewed, distributed, modified and in specific cases also stored on electronic devices. The classic examples of digital media include software, digital images, video, video games, websites, digital audio and e-books. In terms of dominance, the most pervasive form of digital media today is social media, which enables individuals to become content creators.
  3. Interaction – One of the main differences is that digital technologies facilitate engagement and interaction. While the communication in traditional channels are ‘one-way’, the interaction in digital channels can be ‘two-way’.

Similarities Between Traditional And Digital

While the method of content creation and dissemination differs greatly, the effort to source for stories remain relatively unchanged. Both online news portals and traditional media outfits need to mobilise personnel to attend events or press conferences in order to get stories direct from the horse’s mouth.

The journalist or writer would first be assigned to attend an event and write the first draft of the article. Then, the editor would revise, polish and refine the article before it is published.

Besides that, the media organisation may also run telecon interviews or receive written statements and press releases issued without press conferences. Due to limitations in publishing schedules and space, the editor needs to vet through and decide which stories to feature. It is therefore common for both sides to have similar organisational structures.

In the past, due to the sheer size of the operations, advertising on traditional media used to be expensive. However, due to the decline in print media readership, don’t be surprised that traditional media outlets may offer attractive advertising and advertorial packages in order to attract advertisers.

Besides, most traditional media outlets also have their online news portals to cater to the mobile generation. Such packages provide you with the best chance of reaching out to your target audience on both traditional and digital channels.

What Matters Most To People

Man reading news on tablet computer

Whether it’s ethical journalism or trust that the media can provide them with the best value – be it entertainment or education – trustworthiness is a key reason why people keep coming back to their preferred news or media outlet.

Readers and viewers also appreciate media that are authentic and carry their own unique styles of presenting content. Content sites that carry stories in a humourous, lighthearted manner may be an excellent platform for sponsored content if you are a lifestyle brand.

If you are a healthcare or pharmaceutical brand however, then having a media partner that is both credible and accountable is of higher priority than entertainment value.

Ultimately, individuals are unique, and each will have their own preferences when it comes to consuming content. For instance, a professional journal normally upholds specific writing standards as they cater to a niche target audience that understands technical jargons. Therefore, advertisements or content related to career, professional events and conferences may be more suitable for these media.

Key Takeaways

Digital TV

Notice that the 4 points above are about content. They are channel-agnostic and transcends generations. What you have to say is likely more important than where you choose to say it. The way the content is written or produced will still need to be optimised for specific channels, but the content itself first needs to be of value to the target audience.

Contests and promotions that take place online can also be promoted on print and out-of-home advertising via QR codes and relevant links. Therefore, if budgets permit, a multi-channel communications approach can be more effective at achieving business objectives and delivering measurable results.

The level of trust in traditional media outlets is still relatively high, as journalists and editors are held accountable for the stories they put out to the world. The same cannot be said for the some purely-online ‘media outlets’, especially those that don’t disclose the names of the journalists.