The Campaign for a Sustainable Free Press

There is a social, cultural, political and economic imperative that we maintain a sustainable free press. An economically stable media industry is at the foundation of our basic First Amendment rights, and this foundation could collapse unless media companies have the resources to invest in innovative business models – new models that offer measurable return-on-investment for marketers and their agencies. It's critical for every American, every media company, every marketer, every agency, every government official to understand that no challenge is more critical in these difficult times than maintaining a vital and robust media economy and a healthy and competitive free press.

The proliferation of new media technologies -- and the media industry's failure to develop new business models to support them -- are endangering our nation's ability to sustain a free press unfettered by government control. With media options splintering, advertising investments eroding, and subscription models deteriorating, media companies can no longer depend on their traditional revenue sources for economic support. Media companies simply cannot sustain their profitability when they have the perfect storm trifecta: a long-term global economic downturn; debilitating debt load; and the systemic issues wrought by the forward march of media technology. Consumers are better off and in many ways society and culture are better off. But there has been little consideration of the economic viability or impact of media technologies on the media economy, and the traditional business models of the past 60 years are collapsing, if they haven't already collapsed. Many media and advertising-dependent companies will be forced into bankruptcy and liquidation in the next 36 months. Almost all are scaling back their costs and investments. Even the mention of government bailouts for media companies leads to very real concerns about censorship and interference, and both federal and state governments are already pursuing onerous taxation on advertising.

Newspapers, magazines, radio stations and networks, television stations and networks, and all media that make significant investments in original news reporting and investigative journalism are in jeopardy. Similarly, the business models that underwrite quality entertainment and documentary content have been in jeopardy for years.

I expect you are personally committed to a sustainable media industry, but what can you do? The Campaign for a Sustainable Free Press is dedicated to identifying companies that are investing and testing innovative business models throughout the media industry, and sharing successful initiatives. E-mail details of your program to jm@jackmyers.com and/or share them below.

Myers Publishing is committed to a sustainable free press and we are focusing on identifying, developing and promoting business models that assure continued financial viability for traditional media companies, and expanded investments in emerging media. We are committing our resources, expertise and media assets to lobbying on behalf of companies and organizations that offer solutions and ideas for a rebirth of the industry. We will work to defeat initiatives to impose further governmental regulation and taxation on media and advertising.

Financial pressures on media companies are resulting in the loss of jobs by thousands of print journalists and news producers. Equity market woes are driving the consolidation of local TV news, shifts from local radio voices to national and regional programming, reduced investments in quality prime time television series, and a decline in the production of documentaries and information programming. Broadcast TV network and local affiliate television programming costs are increasing and revenues are declining. Radio station profitability is declining rapidly. Local newspapers are no longer economically viable. Even the venerable New York Times has been forced to accept a $250 million dollar loan at 14% interest rates, with uncertainty the company will be able to pay the loan back. Newsweek is no longer covering news and U.S. News and World Report has shifted from a weekly to a monthly format. Web-based advertising, while still growing, is fragmented among so many providers that profitability appears to be far in the future, if ever, for many companies. While social networking and user generated content are capturing a fast-growing share of consumers' attention, the revenue-models for companies like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and others are uncertain at best.

The idea that citizen journalism can effectively replace a corps of professional, well-schooled beat reporters defies logic. Blogs, tweets and word-of-mouth add to the cacophony of confusion and further diminish the public's knowledge and understanding of the institutions that they depend upon. Never was this more obvious that the failure of the press to effectively cover the misdeeds and outright criminality of Wall Street and a complicit government for the past decade, All media became so dependent on the stock market, hedge funds, equity investment firms, venture capitalists and government regulators that they were never going to bite the hands that fed them. Now those hands have been chopped off at the elbow and media companies find themselves thrown into the water with no life preservers. We need to confront these realities with a focus on the future and with an industry-wide understanding that we represent not only the future of our companies and industry, but the future health of a free press and, by extension, of democracy.

We are working closely with forward-planning executives of leading media companies, agencies and marketers to define, develop and implement innovative business models and strategic initiatives that shift the focus away from unprofitable dependence on "cost-per-impression" advertising and declining subscription revenue patterns. Within a framework of developing tactics for optimizing short term revenues, we utilize our clients' strengths, assets and resources to create innovative new revenue models.

Non-profit organizations and foundations that support the economic viability of the media industry can receive grants from Myers Publishing in the form of free targeted ad campaigns and outreach programs. In 2008, Myers Publishing granted more than $700,000 in pro bono advertising to industry causes. Effective in June, JackMyers.com, MediaBizBloggers.com and the daily Jack Myers Report e-mail will accept only pro-bono advertising in support of initiatives that are advancing the value of media companies to marketers and partners.

What are your opinions on A Sustainable Free Press? Share your comments below.

To communicate with or to be contacted by the executives and/or companies mentioned in this column, link to the JackMyers Connection Hotline.

2008-05-15-jmresize.jpg

This post originally appeared at JackMyers.com.