Monday, May 29, 2017

The News Media is Becoming Extinct

Today is a great day to take a break and write this blog. 

Today is Memorial Day Monday and what I write below, is a nice match with the "memorial" part of the holiday name.

As I was getting ready to write this, I grabbed a great Southern Fried Chicken lunch at one of the great Atlanta hole-in-the-wall mom & pop restaurants.  As I sat pickin’ apart the chicken from the bones and taking a spoon full of home-made potato salad, I thought a lot about how I would best write this.

When I mentioned to the "grandmother" that cooks up the chicken, she said, "darlin', just tell it like it is!"

We are in the midst of watching an industry get slam dunked. And I’m not talking about the Big Brands mentioned in the last blog!

Gallop just released a study that evaluates sources that people trust and source that people don’t trust. Gallop has been doing the survey since 1972 – that’s 45 years ago!

In the release this year, the “national news media” scored rock bottom at the lowest level of trust since Gallop started the survey in 1972. 

“Full trust” in the news media posted only a single digit percentage!  “Total full trust” combined with “fair amount of trust” did not even secure a third of the participants at 31%. 

More people trusted banks, insurance salespersons, organized labor, the medical system, the police and the church than trusted the media! Only used car salespersons scored lower than the news media!

Folks, the news media is committing suicide!

A month ago, Fortune Magazine published the results of another study in which nearly two-thirds of the surveyed public believe that news journalists regularly “make-up” news – 64%. 

The Wall Street Journal printed a story last week that reported more people trust the Trump White House than the media!  37% of the respondents in the survey trusted that the White House was being truthful vs. 29% of the respondents trusted that the media was being truthful.

Nielsen also just issued a report in the last two weeks that radio news is at its lowest level of trust since 2013.

Having worked at Time-Warner and having worked with the CEO of CNN back then, it is difficult to say it, but I think CNN might be the root cause of the collapse.

While the bottom has broken out of CNN’s last several years of ratings, CNN needs to take on the responsibility from day #1 Ted Turner launched it.

Upon the launch of CNN, the news left behind its calling for news reporting and shifted hats to news entertainment.  After all, CNN was a commercial-supported 24/7 television network.

Oh I know, when CNN first launched, it was a replay of news most every 30 minutes.  BUT quickly the ratings it got from 6a-7a and again from 6p-7p waned. 

CNN then converted over to the new-talk forum from its radio cousins. 

And that is when broadcast news entered a new era. 

Then came MSNBC and then CNBC and then FOX News and then radio news nets fought for its slice of a slice-and-dice news entertainment genre.

With the onset of the Internet more than 20 years ago, those that thought that they still held control of news quickly added 24/7 “real-time” news websites.

As Millennials left behind the news-nets and the newspapers for social exchange, the news media bastardized itself even more with social media news feeds… or news media social feeds. 

LOL… it all adds another level of perspective to the trans-gender debate!

So where are we at today as I write this?

CNN is free-falling right now and has gotten beat out by MSNBC in primetime news!

CNN reaches 1.170 million households during primetime.  MSNBC reaches 1.174 million households during the same day part.

CNN’s ratings are down 47% from 18 months ago.  MSNBC rating are down 42%.

FOX News is not having party-time either.  While FOX News nets more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined together during prime time for a total of 2.9 million households, its viewership is down 2% since 4th quarter 2016. 

Some think that the FOX News slip will be more severe in 3rd quarter 2017 as the network struggles finding talent replacement for its highest ratings hosts who are been let go for their confrontation with women.

The Big Three nets – ABC, NBC and CBS are seeing drops of more than 10% in their corresponding ratings... and that is after a decline of more than 35% in the last three years.

This past week, the news journalists spent more time foaming at the mouth about an encounter up in Montana with a congressional candidate and a small niche media journalist than reporting about a terror attack in Egypt or Wall Street stock market gains.

From the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Chicago Tribune, the big newspapers rank up even higher percentage on perceived “fake” news than the broadcast nets. 

Here in Atlanta, The Journal-Constitution (AJC) ran a series of stories highlighted on its website about the police and sexual abuse of their staff for six months.  Never found any similar news on the radio, broadcast TV or online during the same time period. 

The only winners coming out of all of this are the local community and alternative newspapers whose readership is actual increasing. 

Community Newspapers Inc. (CNI) is one of our clients.  CNI owns about three dozen small town newspapers in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.  We also work with a set of suburban and alternative newsweeklies in greater Atlanta, North Carolina and Tennessee.

In surveys we do for the papers, local news and local events-entertainment take top slot in terms of importance among readers.

I work hard coaching the owners and editors to stay on track with reporting what is of value and avoiding editorial slants. 

Just before I started my company, I approached the University of Georgia Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications (that really is their name) and tried to set up a scholarship fund for advertising majors. 

When I called the Dean’s office, I was informed that he was very busy with the Peabody Awards, new faculty and relations with the large broadcast news media.

Thank God he was busy. 

Had I set up the scholarship fund, my money would not be reinforcing a basic skill, but instead churning out graduates focused on getting the ratings and readership up again with entertainment content vs. true and honest news.  

Will the news media correct itself and get out of the entertainment field?  No time soon from my perspective. 

Do brands need to re-think how they use the news media as a channel of communication?  Absolutely. 

My firm does a significant amount of work with politicians.  The strategy we have used in the past is getting re-engineered in terms of the role news media plays.  Media endorsements are not even a goal because the endorsement action itself affects the politician-brand in a way that is not necessarily positive.

People are running away from the news media and refocusing around what is real, honest, trusted and local.  

Millennials are buying homes and learning for the first time how to use push mowers.  Boomers are abandoning the East coast and West Coast urban centers for the more real, small town and in-town community hamlets. GenXers are replacing the kids soon-to-leave with volunteerism in the local non-profit and cause groups. 

Getting featured at Betty Crocker Cook-offs, Bud Beer horse-shoe tournaments, PTA meetings, 4-H clubs and Rotary meetings are bunches better than securing a TV newscast. 

Americans believe that those events are real, personal and genuine.  In an era of social media isn’t that what the techies strive for onine?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe those TV newscasts are fake.

I know where I am putting my bets.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The De-massing of Retail

Trendcast 2017 lists out Trend #4 as “The De-massing Of Retail” and after a set of interesting weekend experiences (no pun intended), I thought what a great blog post topic!

I am sure that many of our readers go grocery shopping at least once or twice a week.  The next time you do, take a look at the brands that populate the grocery shelves. 

What you will quickly observe is that there are a good number of brand names on the shelves of which you likely have limited, if any, awareness. 

You will also see that brands you know well and probably even purchased in the past, are less visual because they no longer command as many “facings” as they did even a year ago.

This past weekend, I shopped a combination of Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods and Target for the ingredients that went into two dinner get-togethers.  When I arrived back to the house, I unpacked some interesting options purchased that did not bear the brand names of P&G, Kraft, Frito-Lay, Kellogg, Pillsbury and Nabisco. 

Yet, the brands I purchased were smack next to those BIG brands along with a few other brands I had not seen a lot of until recently. 

Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured an article titled, “Big Name Food Brands Lose Battle of the Grocery Aisle.”  The article notes that Nielsen is reporting a decline of 2.4% for the top 10 national packaged food brands in first quarter 2017. 

That same article goes on to cite increases in the top 10 regional packaged food brands along with fresh, locally produced meats, produce and bakery items during the same time in 2017.

Occupying shelf space and taking the lime-light away from the “mass brands” are unique, locally-rooted, specialty brands that quickly personalizes the shelf facings at the “chain” grocery stores. There might not be a "mom" nor a "pop," but the stores feel more personal!

I also went and shopped at a “Super” Kroger and a Walmart “super-store.”  In both cases, after long hikes, I could not find what I went in to purchase.  I next visited a new Publix mini-store and found the fresh vegetables I needed and then visited a local lawn & garden store and found the specific type of garden supplies that Walmart did not carry.

This time last year EXPERIENCE worked with an ad agency that was attempting to pitch a restaurant-pub account.  The restaurant-pub was a chain developed by a set of founders that included the CEO of one of the largest restaurant corporations in the U.S. 

When I first started EXPERIENCE back in the early 2000s, that CEO came to us and asked us to create a new restaurant-pub concept. 

The ad agency was one of three other firms that were challenged with finding ways to increase sales.  I always quietly laugh how clients believe that the ad agencies can work magic and how the ad agencies sell themselves in with reinforcements of the belief.

The concept that EXPERIENCE developed was to create a true neighborhood non-chain, chain. We gave the concept an overall brand name, but laid out a brand platform in which the environment and aspects of the menu varied from pub-to-pub.  We also recommended setting geographic boundaries in just how close one pub could be from another pub.

The restaurant-pub initiated the review because sales were down in markets now like Atlanta that now has about 10 locations or smaller markets like Orlando that have 4 locations. Oh well, I guess that the brand platform gave way to the craving to sell as many franchise units as possible.

In my counsel to the ad agency who hired us, I quickly channeled them over to observe what a lot of the new wave of restaurant groups are doing. 

Here in Atlanta, there is a cool guy who we worked with very early on in his venture development.  His name is Ford Fry and he started with a restaurant called JCT Kitchen. 

Early in the development of the holding company, we sat down with Ford and chatted about brand expansion scenarios. He was very passionate about the uniqueness of the restaurant experiences and yet, at the same time, passionate about his brand name – Ford Fry.

Today, in Atlanta, the hippest restaurants are owned by umbrella firms that have as many as two dozen individual restaurants, each reatuarant with their own personality and brand name.

About 80% of the time that I sit in a café with my Mac and/or clients, we are sitting in an indie coffee house.  God love Starbucks with over 13,000 locations in the U.S. alone, they chucked the “third place” brand culture and now lay claim to their coffee blends and price deals. 

Business leaders and entrepreneurs that operate in a vacuum of thinking that a single concept can be defined and mass produced are living in past-times. 

My suggestion among the doubters of this blog… go spend an evening watching Food Network and check out which restaurants and dives are featured in the programming!

The de-massing of retail is still very much in its beginning stages. 

Will we see large, universal brands begin to de-mass?  My bet is before year’s end, one of the large department store brands – perhaps Macy’s – will see opportunity to resurrect the regional brands that they acquired and re-branded under the Macy’s name. 

Maybe Atlanta will see Rich’s Department Store return!

We will see more and more and more of will be in-town and village-anchored shopping centers chuck leasing out to the national chains and instead, lease out to the regional and local retailers… as long as they are able to pay the leasing costs!

Local chamber of commerce and business development groups will begin to re-think what makes their communities attractive for residents and businesses.  They will begin to think less of becoming another Atlanta or Dallas or LA and perhaps more of an Austin, Asheville or Portland.

As I was writing this, I took a time-out and met with a very cool guy that I used to work in tandem with during my Time-Warner days.  Luca Magnanini is his name.  Luca headed up TBS and TNT Latin American when I was doing global brand work with Cartoon Network. 

Luca and I both met this morning about opportunity to employ some very cool virtual reality (VR) integration into real-time brand experiences.  We specifically talked about how those VR experiences could be customized against local communities and culture.

We both commented that many of the ad agencies and technology firms are still clinging to the past models of mass-marketing – even when they lay claim to personal relationship building executed within interactive and social media “networks.”

Luca and I are engineering some very cool VR applications that can be married with the neighborhood lifestyle audience modeling EXPERIENCE has expertise in crafting. 

If you are reading this and it begins to get your mind pondering and generating some interesting thoughts and ideas, text me or call me at 404.245.9378. 

The “De-massing of Retail” is only one – number 4 to be precise – of the Top 10 Trends rattling the marketplace.  I get a kick out of presenting the trends and hearing others chime in about what they too experience and how they are working to capitalize on the change!