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E-media's bandwidth problem

This morning, Politico carries an interesting story about digital television and the lost hope that it will revive the financial integrity of failing newspapers. It is interesting because Politico has been successful on its beat with a printed publication, website and e-version, as well as strong presence with analysts on television channels like CNN.

John F. Harris, CEO, Politico

“Type Daily newspaper
Format Newspaper, Internet, radio, TV
Owner(s) Allbritton Communications
Editor-in-chief John F. Harris
Managing editors Bill Nichols
Founded January 23, 2007
Headquarters 1100 Wilson Boulevard
6th Floor
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Circulation 37,512 (December 2012)[1]
Official website”

When I was in the publishing business, one of my properties, a business automation journal, had over 125,000 subscribers. That was in the 1980s for comparison sake.

“The Politico is an American political journalism organization based in Arlington County, Virginia, that distributes its content via television, the Internet, newspaper and radio. Its coverage of Washington, D.C., includes the U.S. Congress, lobbying, media and the Presidency.[2] It was a sponsor of the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on May 3, 2007, the 2008 Democratic Presidential candidates debate at the Kodak Theater on January 31, 2008, and the 2012 Republican Presidential candidates debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on September 7, 2011.

John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become Politico's editor-in-chief and executive editor, respectively, launching the newspaper on January 23, 2007. Frederick J. Ryan Jr., former assistant to President Ronald Reagan,[3] is president and chief executive officer.[4]”

Everyone in the “information” business ultimately must embrace the complete package of e-media and all that it has become as a “social enterprise.” Publishing companies know this as do non-profit organizations. They are all competing for “bandwidth.” Not the technical bandwidth of networks, but consumer bandwidth for information.

How much bandwidth does a Middle Class family member have in their lives for attending information for whatever reason or purpose?

  • Dad
  • Mom
  • Children
  • Granddad
  • Grandmom
  • Single adult male
  • Single adult female

Dad has to be at work by 9:00 a.m. His commute will take an hour. He rises at 5:30 a.m., processes, showers, shaves, and along the way to breakfast he does some things on one or more of his electronic devices: checks the mail, checks the weather, checks the morning headlines, checks the commute status. Let’s say between rising and morning departure he gets about 30 minutes of “air time” in the e-world.

Once at work, Dad may be in an occupation that is very dependent upon using e-devices to perform his work.

When he gets home at night, departing from work at 5:30 p.m. and arriving at home by 6:30-7:00 p.m., he is just in time for dinner. He is a JIT Dad in that since. He is just in time for all sorts of family responsibilities. Maybe by 8:00-8:30 p.m. he is ready to settle down for conversation with wife and children. That may consume at least 30 minutes before all, some, or one is consumed by some channel of information and entertainment. Between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. some sort of electronic engagement is happening with commercial and live interruptions.

All in all, Dad may have compressed 60 minutes a day of interrupted discretionary air time that amounts to his bandwidth.

A working Mom may have the same or less, depending upon how well the parents share the home workload and the number of children. That puts a lot of stress on discretionary media time.

Of course those kids are busy in their active little lives, attending school, doing homework, participating in activities including sports. They have their devices, but even for them, time and access is limited and managed.

Granddad and grandma have less time than you may think as they have lots of chores to do and it takes them more time. In the end, they do have more discretionary time, but to stay healthy they must resist being sedentary.

When it comes to single adults, males and females, e-media means a lot of socializing, music listening, video watching squeezed into time capsules. They probably are up later at night and can extend their discretionary bandwidth. Maybe they have 2 hours a day to play instead of 1.

So, where does news video programming fit into these peoples’ lives? The good news is that snippets are easier to consume. The bad news is that they must fit into a very tight bandwidth, and had better get to the point in a hurry.

“Why live video won't save the news biz

By DYLAN BYERS | 2/24/14 4:58 AM EST Updated: 2/24/14 5:49 AM EST
Last July, The Washington Post launched a live video channel that its president proclaimed would be “the ESPN of politics.”

Instead, PostTV turned out to be more like a public access show. Within five months, the live content had vanished and the “channel” became little more than a clearinghouse for pre-taped video packages and recycled press briefing footage, along with the occasional original report.

What the Post learned in its video flop in 2013 is what The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and other large news organizations had discovered in years prior: Creating quality live television is expensive — the Post invested millions of dollars and dozens of staffers to Post TV — and much harder than it looks. The end result didn’t interest readers — or advertisers.

Video would not be the savior of online journalism.”

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