What the Music Industry Can Teach Media

By Campbell, Geoff | Editor & Publisher, July 2016 | Go to article overview

What the Music Industry Can Teach Media


Campbell, Geoff, Editor & Publisher


Fifteen years ago, the music industry went through some painful restructuring. The business had been disrupted by a website called Napster and a tidal wave of peer-to-peer sites that allowed consumers to get for free music they once paid for. Many believed the industry was finished.

What they failed to see was that the period was, in reality, a transition to a healthier future. Looking back, music was a vanguard for media businesses that would be disrupted by the digital revolution. But for one industry in particular--the news media--the upheaval and adaptation of the music industry serve as a uniquely instructive example.

The Sweeping Digital Tide

The news business is facing a struggle to survive remarkably similar to the one music faced. Like music, news developed its business model around packaged formats such as newspapers, magazines, television programs and radio shows. Lacking a way to get only the news they wanted, consumers were forced to purchase a basket of news curated by publishers for general consumption.

But when digital swept in, it washed away the need for old formats. If Napster gave consumers the ability to consume the songs they wanted, Facebook has done exactly the same thing with news. According to Pew Research, nearly 41 percent of American adults now get some of their news from Facebook--up from 30 percent two years ago. This number is twice as high for millennials. The publication has gone the way of the CD while the story, like the song, has taken center stage.

Leveraging the On-Demand Model

What salvaged the future of the music industry was a growing demand for an on-demand model that wouldn't come at the cost of a quality experience. Though consumers had grown used to getting music when and how they wanted it, the industry began to understand the peer-topeer experience made finding new music hard, delivered inconsistent sound quality, and was vulnerable to viruses, bad content and other byproducts of an unregulated content ecosystem.

While the per-unit economics have shifted dramatically from the $20 CD, the music business is on the road to recovery. Today, there's more music being consumed than ever before and billion-dollar companies such as Pandora, Spotify and iTunes are driving the next generation of music experiences.

New Industry Quick Fixes Won't Work

Facing a very similar crisis (albeit 15 years later), the news industry is busily trying out its share of quick fixes. …

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