While the fortunes of traditional media have been subject to downturn, thanks to the rise of digital media, the fortunes of digital media are now, ironically, making headlines as it shows signs of going the way of the big tech downturn.
Silicon Valley and the tech downturn are no longer alone as we prepare to enter 2023. Both traditional and digital media appear to be heading in the wrong direction, as inflation combines with lowering readership/viewing/listening figures and layoffs ensue.
According to a report by AXIOS, CNN is down 47 percent and MSNBC down 33 percent in viewing figures, with Fox News beating the trend with an upward trajectory of 12 percent in the same six-month span, between January and June, 2022. The top five digital news providers in the U.S. dropped 18 percent in the first half of 2022.
Layoffs announced by CNN in November are expected to affect hundreds of employees, while NPR announced hiring freezes. ABC’s December layoffs include national correspondents and “The View”’s senior executive producer, Estey McLoughlin.
Shockingly, social media engagement with news content dropped a massive 50 percent during the same period. Some apologists claim this may be due in part to Facebook purposefully moving news engagement to its “News Tab”; however, the big picture indicates that this may be only part of the story.
BuzzFeed also announced layoffs in early December, dropping 12 percent of its workforce – around 180 people – citing an ad pullback and economic downturn.
While the overwhelming consensus appears to be that people have become weary of a constant cycle of bad news, the rise in viewership for Fox appears to be willfully ignored as those assessments are made. The indication is that something else may be the root of the problem; and an unwillingness to face uncomfortable problems usually means negative long-term outcomes.
Is The Washington Post Toast?
The Washington Post’s digital subscriptions and digital advertising revenue have been described as “stagnating” and the paper is set to show financial losses for 2022.
When The Post’s publisher, Fred Ryan, announced layoffs to shocked staff at a town hall meet he apparently didn’t anticipate follow-up questions, despite his workforce being made up of professional journalists. When questions came at him anyway, he scarpered as quickly as he could.
One sneaky journalist, of course, covertly filmed the escape and leaked it online, perhaps providing a silver lining to Mr Ryan’s poorly thought out Happy Holidays message.
The announced layoffs came a couple of weeks before Christmas and are scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2023. In November, The Post announced that it was ending its once beloved print and digital magazine and laying off the staff, citing “economic headwinds.” This despite the fact that five of 40 stories most popular online for the paper were produced by the magazine and its staff, which first appeared in 1986.
The fact that this recent communications disaster is just one of many horror stories that have happened as companies layoff staff is another story – but an important one.
To stay on point, the headline of this article may be too limited. Many are now openly asking the question: “Is journalism dying?” Some are even questioning the timing of the headcount reduction and becoming conspiratorial in their thinking.
Does that make sense? The mainstream media has always been controlled. If it tanks, some will fall one way and others another – one group making self-education a priority and no longer trusting any approved narratives.Some would argue that the Bezos owned Post was anything but a bastion of free-thinking American journalism anyway.
The answers are probably in the big picture. And that very much includes the tech industry, inflation, an unemployment rate the Fed claimed in September would rise to 4.4 percent by the end of 2023 – even though it then dropped back to 3.5 percent before returning to 3.7 – the continuation of high quit rates and the phenomena of “quiet quitting”.
Making the big picture more of a Picasso than a Renoir.
The New York (Bad) Times
Part of the downturn in this industry is pointed at Donald Trump. Once he left office, everybody saw the curtain come down on the only show in town, and business suffered. However, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have increased subscriptions since his departure.
Still, rather than celebrating, hundreds of New York Times employees chose to spend a day standing outside the building, striking and chanting.
The mantra: “What’s outrageous? Stagnant wages!”
The strike is the first of its type for the paper in over 40 years. Unable to come to agreements with the union of New York Times’ editorial, media, and tech professional workers, The New York Times Guild, over issues including salaries and health-and-retirement benefits. Of course, the word “inflation” is coming up a lot in “discussions”.
Negotiations have shot back and forth for months now, with both sides seemingly unwilling to yield, and the strike as the culmination of frustrations, powerplays, or whatever you choose to think. Relying on international employees and non-union journalists to fill in the gaps has only added fuel to the fire.
Unsurprisingly, The Times saw protests begin in August over – wait for it – the union representing technology workers.
The Outlook in 2023
While many claim that we have been in recession since the U.S. economy shrank by 0.6 percent over two straight quarters this year, answering the technical definition of recession, others point to 50-year low unemployment figures at 3.5 percent, and claim that COVID-related disruptions have resulted in confused economic outcomes.
Those who believe we have been in a recession are predicting a depression in 2023, with unemployment starting to rise as layoffs across industries spread. With a current unemployment rate at a still healthy 3.7 percent, there is room for cautious optimism, with a recommended mantra of:
“Hope for the best. Expect the worst. And deal with what comes.”
Founded back in 2003, Ladders has weathered many storms with its members and knows how talented, hard-working people can optimize their skills and experience to dodge the big waves and stay on solid ground, with a clear career-path stretching out ahead.
We won’t be making the above mantra our official tagline any time soon, but we do want all professionals, whether in the recruitment industry or not, to think about it.
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As this article points out, there are a variety of reasons why traditional and digital media is going through tough times, and it isn’t all inflation driven. The fact that it comes so soon after the stunning big tech downturn appears to fulfill many dark predictions about the immediate future, but that may not be the case.
At time of writing, the quit rate remains at 4.0 million, with The Great Resignation still in play and the “Quiet Quitting” phenomena on the rise. While some employers see a downturn as an advantage for them in this area, many warn that the much beloved remote work model is here to stay, and those who continue attempting to roll it back will likewise continue to suffer negative outcomes.
Whether or not the latter point of view is correct is up for grabs, as most things are during these strange times, but it would certainly be a strange time for companies to gamble so much.
Here’s to 2023 – stay in touch.