Friday, December 9, 2016

People seeking -- and finding -- alternative info sources

Last week in a post I recalled the sea change that occurred in the media landscape in the 1990s, partly in response to public dissatisfaction over media coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign. Within four years there were two new 24-hour news networks and a major proliferation of talk radio programs; within six years the Drudge Report was breaking news that rocked Bill Clinton's presidency; and within eight years upstart online news and opinion sites were beginning to have an impact on political coverage.

I believe this year's election -- during which the extent of the major media corruption is still being learned -- will lead to even more dramatic changes in the media landscape in the months and years ahead. In fact, we may be witnessing a tectonic shift in our culture that affects everything from the buying patterns of consumers to which institutions we still value and which ones we don't.

In recent weeks, I've noticed evidence that lots of people are rethinking where they get their information and are seeking -- and finding -- alternatives. To wit:

Online networks that debuted or gained popularity during the campaign are expanding their offerings. Talk radio host Mark Levin launched a nightly TV show entirely online via subscription earlier this year, and now the service is expanding to become CRTV (for Conservative Review), featuring a nightly investigative report by Michelle Malkin and a talk show featuring Mark Steyn. Right Side Broadcasting, a YouTube channel that revolutionized campaign coverage by showing events live in their entirety (and showing crowd sizes at Donald Trump rallies when the other media wouldn't), announced plans to become a 24-hour network before the end of the year. And Breitbart News, the campaign's hero or goat depending on your point of view, is taking advantage of its exploding web traffic by launching new online talk shows and planning more bureau offices.

Speaking of web traffic, it's growing at a brisk pace for alternative information and opinion sites large and small. At the big end of that spectrum is RushLimbaugh.com, which is adding new Rush 24/7 members at a pace not seen since the site launched several years ago, according to the host. At the small end of the spectrum is this humble blog, which had far and away its best month in terms of traffic in November and is on a pace to shatter that this month with as many as 10,000 visits. I'm now getting one or two new friend requests per day on Facebook, where I post from here and from CapitalPress.com as well as pertinent links to stories and commentary about current events.

Cable TV cancellations are escalating. ESPN has lost nearly 1.2 million subscribers in the last two months, meaning other networks, including CNN, have also lost subscribers. The question of whether to continue to fund the cable networks has become a moral issue for many people as they realize these networks are more interested in driving wedges between people and fomenting dissent than reporting what's actually going on.

Now all of this evidence is circumstantial and/or anecdotal, but I think we're seeing only the very beginning of shifts in media consumption that people will make over the next decade or so as they look for reliable information that is relevant to their lives. They clearly haven't found it in the corporate media, which is dying as we know it. And the information media in the future may look very different, as people demonstrate they're willing to trust information from local or regional sources or people they know more than they trust the media institutions of the past.

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