With hundreds and hundreds of TV channels available on most television sets these days, with satellite radio and Internet streams galore challenging over-the-air radio broadcasters, and with the coming ubiquity of the Internet literally placing a browser on every desk, hip, and dashboard, it becomes almost impossible to measure smaller and smaller numbers of media users--counting grains of sand with your fingers!
That's a wonderful metaphor found in this very interesting article by media-watcher Erwin Ephron.
Now, you say, that doesn't affect me one way or the other. Yes, it will. I firmly believe the daily newspaper as we have always known it will soon disappear. Most cities now are down to one daily paper. That old standby when you needed a plumber or litigation attorney, the Yellow Pages, are not long for this world. Bill Gates gives them five years. The nightly network newscast on TV is a dinosaur soon to be covered over by the volcano ash of 24-hour-a-day cable news channels. You older folks might remember magazines such as Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post. No more. Remember when TV Guide and Readers Digest were neck and neck for highest circulation of any magazine? Not now.
We cheer having cable channels dedicated to golf, video games, gay people, sappy "Hallmark" stories, and cooking. It's wonderful that we can subscribe to magazines totally focused on the most esoteric pursuit or interest. And websites created for the most exotic and tiny audiences we could imagine--or maybe not even be able to remotely comprehend.
But as the users of these narrowly targeted outlets become a smaller and smaller subset of the total population, the more difficult it becomes for the operators of those media outlets and the advertisers who support them to determine the size and demographic makeup of those audiences. Advertisers don't like to spend money on anything they can't measure. Also, there is risk that the listeners, viewers or readers will become such a small number that advertisers will no longer want to use them for their commercials. Or the price that the outlet is able to charge for its space or time is too small to cover the cost of generating and distributing content. Then the medium simply goes away.
Interesting times! You may want to hang onto that copy of the Yellow Pages. It may be a collector's item soon.
Don Keith N4KC