Old Media's Arrogant Attitude Is a Major Driver of New Media

And How 'The DaVinci Code' Reviews Are an Example of That

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What's a CMO to do these days? Play it very safe. I was talking to an ad-agency chieftain the other day about the pace with which clients were redirecting their budgets into digital media, and he said that client executives were still recommending to their bosses traditional spending patterns. The agency guy said that clients wanted the agency to be the one to go to bat for the new stuff.
Traditional newspaper reviewers panned 'The Da Vinci Code,' but the movie took in $224 million its opening weekend as ticket-buyers ignored the reviews.
Traditional newspaper reviewers panned 'The Da Vinci Code,' but the movie took in $224 million its opening weekend as ticket-buyers ignored the reviews.

Necks on the line
In other words, clients don't want to put their own necks on the line. Let the agency take the heat.

Part of the problem might be that traditional media are reluctant to jump headlong into the new-media fray. The old media still make a lot more money than the new media, and the newspaper and magazine guys don't want to cannibalize existing business by encouraging their Web sites to go after it. And they just can't make as much money on their cyberspace ventures. The dilemma is that even though ad dollars going to traditional media -- especially newspapers -- are drying up, the margins are still much greater than spending going to the Web.

So newspaper people are very reluctant to pluck the golden goose.

Forces protecting status quo
There are plenty of forces out there trying to protect the status quo. As our columnist Randall Rothenberg said last week, "The embrace of digital media is still not widespread." He cited one consumer-product senior marketer, who told Strategy & Business, "While [digital media] is cost-effective, TV is sexy and fun." And besides, marketers -- and their top management -- most likely don't understand the new media and feel comfortable with the good old tried and true.

And speaking of true, it's true TV has been throwing off mixed signals about its staying power. "As American television has moved from episodic sitcoms to serialized shows that end, not unlike baseball or the NFL seasons, in a playoffs-style showdown, the mini-season known as sweeps has become an all-consuming national event," The New York Times noted.

What's more, TiVo-ing your favorite show has a big downside: Your friends can spoil the ending for you by blabbing before you get around to watching it. One woman told the Times that TiVo-ing "Desperate Housewives" would be "the equivalent of putting her relationship with her mother on hold" because they call each other while they're watching the show.

Explaining why she doesn't TiVo, one woman said, "If you went to a grocery store and bought the ingredients for a great meal, why would you wait to make it?"

Arrogant and self-righteous
Sometimes I think that if and when traditional media succumb to blogs and the other manifestations of cyberspace, it won't be because they are faster or more convenient. It will be because the old media is so arrogant and self-righteous.

You'd think from the reviews that "The DaVinci Code" was a movie unfit for man or beast. Too long, too convoluted, no sparks between the two stars, overbearing music, overarching ambition. Yet it took in $224 million its opening weekend. Clearly, moviegoers -- including me -- were totally ignoring the reviews.

The media took the attitude that the poor slobs who flocked to see the film were misguided souls. Said a Times writer: "Does this mean that critics are out of touch with the public? Maybe, but really, who cares? All that box office doesn't make it a good movie."

It's this sort of attitude -- we know what's good for our readers and viewers even if they don't -- that will be the final tipping point toward the digital divide. As the nursery rhyme goes, "All the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to put traditional media back together again."
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