Barmy Ballmer ???

So Microsoft guru Steve Ballmer has predicted the demise of media as we know it with some pretty bold statements in his recent interview with the Washington Post.

Steve feels that there will be no media that is not delivered via IP (the web) within a 8-15 year range. His particular point being the demise of print media but also revolutions in the delivery of TV as well. It’s an interesting opinion but is it realistic?

Whilst I agree that the web does offer significant opportunities for a revolution in content delivery especially a media like TV, to predict that all print will go is simply crazy. It’s a view I think he expresses for two reasons:

1/ Microsoft has a vested interested in trying to kill off non-web based media. They have invested massively in MSN and webmedia in general and have everything to gain by scaring the advertising market into shifting budget out of traditional media platforms.

2/ Steve’s views are probably skewed since the print media Microsoft has used – IT, business and newspapers, have been the hardest hit by changes in advertising spend patterns.

Also it’s simply not true that readers don’t want to read print media anymore.

Talk to any publisher and they will confirm that while there is increases in web traffic, especially covering items like news, sports and social chit chat, the decreases in print magazine circulations and issue sizes is more to do with simple business economics than the readers massively changing consumption habits. It’s declining ad spend that kills magazines and page counts not the readers (did you ever call a publication you liked and tell them to print less content?)

Look outside IT and newspaper segments and print appears to be doing pretty well. I recently reviewed magazines in the high household income, luxury lifestyle segment. There are magazines with circulations of less than 40,000 with folio sizes of over 250 pages. IT pubs rarely get above 60! Plenty of advertisers means plenty of pages.

Will IP based devices really replace print. Even today’s coolest devices are hardly great platforms for reading long in depth articles, especially when the content is complemented by high quality glossy photography. There’s also a generational aspect. Anyone over the age of 30 is still happy to read magazines. Even my younger staff sit down over lunch with trashy celeb magazines rather than continuing to stare a screen. It’s just human nature.

So whilst not ignoring some definite trends…mostly driven by advertisers and not readers, the future is not so black and white. Just like TV didn’t kill radio, a varied media landscape is here to stay.

As a parting shot, if Microsoft is so in tune with consumers desires, why are they now officially incorporating a “downgrade feature” into Vista . Hate to say I told you so….but I did.

Dick Reed
Just Media, Inc.

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