OPINION: In the last years of the apartheid era, mass media in South Africa boomed. This was partly because the players at that time were comfortably protected by monopolistic chain mail, but also because South Africans desperately wanted to know whether they were going to prosper, or die in a bloody revolution.
Now, 21 years later, there is a lot more competition for all mass media and lured away by everything from readmission to international sport and the ubiquitous internet, South African consumers are turning their backs on the traditional news media in ever increasing numbers.
But, maybe the tide might turn for the news media in 2016. Perhaps this will be the year in which the #ZumaMustFall campaign gathers momentum and the political environment becomes decidedly heated with the municipal elections playing a part.
And there is nothing like political cat fighting, back-stabbing and an increased level of ludicrous promises, lies and deception to get South Africans consuming media by the bucket-load and with the same vigour with which they cheer on their Idols favourites and revel in seeing their worst celebrities having to eat dirt.
Nothing like hungry people to take to the streets and create news, albeit bloody, tragic and utterly terrifying news
The new year will almost certainly see the starving masses in South Africa having to do away with only one meal a day and live on perhaps one decent meal every three days as the consequences of government’s obsession with helping the Rand fall kicks in with a vengeance.
Nothing like hungry people to take to the streets and create news, albeit bloody, tragic and utterly terrifying news.
Maybe all this will give the news media in this country a new lease on life because under normal circumstances they are unable to get their heads round doing it themselves.
Frankly, the mass media is going to need some sort of miracle because right now they are seemingly hell-bent on self-destruction.
Newspaper diehards are being put in change of digital media with the result that digital media are being run like newspapers, which is precisely what shouldn’t be happening.
The mass media persists in clinging to traditional, decades old, advertising practices.
In most free market economies, 30-second TV commercials just don’t work anymore because viewers simply don’t watch commercial breaks anymore. The traditional advertisements in newspapers don’t work anymore. Radio commercials don’t work.
In a nutshell, the problem is not where an advertisement is placed or how noticeable it is. The problem is advertising itself.
The consumer environment is moving on with considerable gusto and changing from supply to demand. From a situation where consumers respond to being informed about new products and services to one in which they demand information about products and services.
Everyone seems to be panicking unnecessarily about ad blocking in the online environment. But, there is no cause for alarm because the online environment should not be carrying traditional advertisements. Marketing is becoming less about advertising and more about content. More about relevant information. Quality information.
There is little doubt in my mind that more traditional mass media will go to the wall in 2016.
So, while a potentially falling Zuma might well give the news media a bit of a fillip next year, the blood-letting will continue for those who refuse to make the considerable paradigm shift that is required for survival.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
Image: Shonah Gallichan @Crush_Cafe
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