Category Archives: infotainment

Sam Zell is the New Sheriff at the Tribune Co–can a non-media type save mainstream?

Sam Zell, a real estate gazillionaire has taken over one of the premiere mainstream media enterprises in the nation–the Tribune Company. Of course, he got a steal because of the crisis facing most traditional media in the light of the massive switch to the internet as the primary news source.

I find his approach refreshing and optimistic–he says all the focus has been on cost cutting and now the emphasis needs to be on revenue enhancement. In our own small market, the daily has changed hands three times in the past few years and the new publisher clearly has an entrepreneurial bent starting at least three glossy magazines serving the local community. I’m not certain but I’m presuming ad revenue is likely up–particularly since one company bought up all the local radio stations and with huge rate increases across the board made radio a less attractive advertising option locally.

What will be interesting to watch is how Zell approaches the challenge of enhancing revenue and paying off a $13 b debt. I’m guessing it will be combinations of leveraging off existing brands in traditional media and some innovative ideas in new media. I’m just hoping–and here is the tenuous connection to crisis management–that he steers away from the way the main stream media has fought the current battle and that is turning more and more to infotainment strategies in covering the news. Infotainment is bad news for those concerned about reputations because the slightest issue–real, imagined, or accused, becomes fodder for building ratings with screaming headlines and simplistic reporting. We’ve seen far too much of that in the past few years. Publishers and producers should take note–extreme infotainment has not stopped the slide. Zell–it’s time for something else and I hope you find another way.

Are the mainstream media's methods turning counter productive?

Interesting article in Bulldog Reporter on criticism about the mainstream media’s addiction to reporting violence and using shock value to build and hold audiences. As anyone who has heard me speak or read my books or this blog for long knows that a central tenet of my position is that organizational communicators today have a particularly difficult time because of what I call “infotainment.” That is, their organizations simply become a tool to be used by media outlets to tell gripping stories in dramatic fashion, normally using the melodrama formula. Where an executive thinks he or she may be going into a media interview to provide “the facts” they don’t realize that the reporter and camera crew have a very different job. They are simply there to gather the material they need to fill out the “white hats” vs “black hats” story that they have already firmly in mind. You just need to cooperate by giving them the admissions, denials, or uncomfortable looks that they desire.

Sure, that is simplification, but to make an important point. And that is that after “60 Minutes” invaded prime time with “news”, journalism got to be a lot more about entertainment. Now, the lines between news, and “reality” and entertainment are completely blurred. It’s in this environment that companies under public scrutiny are trying to protect and enhance their reputations. Very challenging.

The same issue of Bulldog Reporter reports on the growing prominence of blogs. Altogether, an interestisng contrast.