No new TV viewers or newspaper subscribers are being born, BuzzFeed president says

Speaking at a NewsCred conference last week, BuzzFeed President Jon Steinberg talked about his theory that content, and the ways it is distributed, will be “completely decoupled, I would say, in the next five years.”

The average television viewer right now, for right now, for network television, late 40s, early 50s. When you look at certain cable news networks it goes even higher. So you have one of two possibilities: Either at 47 years old, everybody starts watching television. Unlikely. Or there’s no new newspaper subscribers being born, for print. And there’s no new television viewers being born. I think that’s probably the likely choice. However, people love great content. There are shows on those networks people love to watch. There’s the Netflix content that people undeniably love to watch. And what that means is you can never fight the consumer, you can never fight a trend like this, so you’re going to see these things totally decoupled. What that means for brand marketers in the audience is that you will literally be on the same footing as anyone creating television programming, anyone creating video programming, anyone creating content programming of any kind.

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Pew has consistently found that the audience for news on TV and print has aged, and a recent report claimed that “by 2015, almost half of all television viewing will be done by folks over the age of 50.”

Younger viewers’ viewing habits create a “dilemma for the TV industry, which wants to put more content online but at the same time needs to protect the television screen,” Joe Flint writes.

Writes [media analyst Todd] Juenger: “They can choose to try to capture more online dollars for themselves, but the more they encourage their viewers to eschew traditional TV, the more they hasten the demise of their core business — especially if it ultimately enables cord-cutting.”

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  • Mark Chapman

    Didn’t I hear this in the ’90s about newspapers? Didn’t a certain NYT owner hint that the print version might not be around in five years? Newspapers have a ways to go, although they will be overtaken by electronic delivery just as soon as publishers and advertisers arrive at the party. Until advertisers stop flushing their money on print (the smaller ads, the ma-and-pas that get lost on a page) and start spending on hyperlocal news sites, print will thrive and digital will struggle. Same for TV. Five years? People who are 50 now will continue to watch for the next 30 or 40 years. Advertisers and networks need to catch up to the fact that older people are spending money now, that over 50 doesn’t mean you are irrelevant. It is more likely that the children who watch video on their little mobile screens will, as they mature, migrate to larger screens. Delivery via Netflix and other services will integrate with cable and, less and less, traditional network TV, much like cable did with network. Remember, cable was supposed to be the ruination of network TV. It has taken decades for cable to even gain real credibility.

    What must happen, from a news delivery and content perspective, is to find a way to deliver serious news and information — world, national and local — without it getting lost in a sea of cat and dog videos, Kardashian updates and sideboob shots. As the rush for clicks overwhelms news judgment, we see a society that is become more coarse, more divided and much less informed. Somehow, the brakes need to be applied to this runaway train.

  • KatyTorgov

    Reddit is good for business.

    But seriously, “you don’t have to create hot dog legs”, no you don’t, you just have to empower the people who are tuned in to the pulse of current culture (especially internet culture) to be able to create and curate whatever is currently funny, sad, shocking, etc.