The proverbial "other shoe" is slipping. Many of us have been warning for years that the traditional advertising model for "old media" simply will not sustain it against the tide of new competition. We've already seen the damage done in the newspaper industry, as paper after paper has cut staff or ceased operations.
Indeed, just last week there was yet another story about the "Old Gray Lady" celebrating the Christmas season by laying off another dozen or so newsroom staff. And contrary to the claims of a few who would like to blink reality, these cuts were not occasioned by the debt load of the New York Times, but by a historic decline in advertising revenues -- the newspaper's advertising revenue fell by 30 percent through the first nine months of the year, which followed a decline of 12 percent in advertising revenue in 2008.
Broadcasters, too, are feeling the pinch. Notably, Pepsi has announced that it will not buy advertising time during the biggest broadcasting event of the year -- the 2010 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is, if you will pardon me, the "Super Bowl" of television advertising each year. A 30-second spot last year cost $3 million on average, and Pepsi alone bought nearly $15 million of time during the broadcast. This year the company will focus its marketing efforts on new media, including a large dose of online advertising.
Can those who would continue to saddle old media with outdated and anticompetitive regulatory restrictions continue to ignore the symptoms of illness when they are so starkly manifest? It is long past time to liberate traditional media businesses from the rusty old regulations that shackle them, and allow these important cultural, educational, and social enterprises to compete with their new foes on a level field. That would entail, first and foremost, affording them full First Amendment rights and eliminating archaic ownership restrictions. The "other shoe" is slipping -- we had better do something before it drops.