Jeremy Lee on Media: Change is as old as the hills

The media world has never been in stasis, so it's time to find a new excuse for its shortcomings.

Why is there such incessant talk of a 'changing media landscape' and an attendant nostalgia for brighter days long-gone? It is so rife that one might be forgiven for thinking that, figuratively speaking, where once there was an unspoilt rural idyll, now there are simply ripped-up hedges and acres of tarmac, laid down one weekend by a group of travellers with JCBs.

Such is the potency of these three words that they conjure up images of a perfect old order usurped from its pride of place - like a treasured Turner masterpiece, ripped from its hanging place in a gallery, before being swiped, defaced and found dumped in a skip. All that is left of its former incarnation is the dusty outline of a frame on a wall - sad, but perhaps ultimately a sign of the nasty times in which we live.

The 'changing landscape' line is an emotive (and now hackneyed) one; no wonder, then, that lazy media practitioners love to trot it out, usually in hushed tones, to explain away current shortcomings against past performance.

Much like a ruined painting or disappearing meadows, there is a resigned acceptance of the outcome - all was good before, but now something unforeseen has happened for which no one could have prepared. But that's really not good enough.

The media industry has never been preserved in aspic; change has always been apparent. So to pin the blame on some external and, ostensibly, uncontrollable force is as good as admitting that those within the media industry had no idea of what was happening outside it, let alone the confidence to deal with or influence it.

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier, who, having been a change agent so many times in the past, really should know better, was the most recent exponent of this view at the presentation of the broadcaster's better- than-expected results.

In fact, he even contradicted him- self when he stated that the television market has 'changed beyond recognition' but added the qualifying statement that 'audiences continue to fragment'.

It was always thus, even within the parochial world of ITV, and that's what makes media exciting and challenging for advertisers to understand and keep up with.

More importantly, it is the job of people such as Crozier to study the geomorphology and ensure that they change along with the corresponding alterations to media's contours.

ITV is not the only entity guilty of playing the 'changing media landscape' card; other broadcasters, publishers and, more worryingly, media agencies use the excuse too.

Given that advertisers pay agencies to advise them on future trends, rounding on change as if it is an unforeseen act of God is not acceptable.

It's a hand-wringing trick played by old media companies, wedded to old ways of working. They now look so dangerously behind what is going on in the real world that whatever their attempts to redress the balance, they will never catch up.

So the next time your agency shrugs its shoulders, looks sadly to the skies and blames the 'changing media landscape', or a media owner attributes its poor performance to this, just stop and ask them exactly what they mean.

In reality, the answer is likely to be that they don't know, either because they are ill-equipped for change, guilty of a lack of vision, suffer from poor management or, most probably, all of the above.

- Jeremy Lee is associate editor of Marketing. Read his blog at

30 SECONDS ON ... ITV strategy

- The broadcaster is to launch ITV1+1 in January 2011, following the successful launch of ITV1 HD in April.

- It is also entering the pay-TV fray, after agreeing a deal with Sky to take ITV2, 3 and 4 HD onto the satellite broadcaster's platform.

- ITV1 HD is already available on Sky, as well as on Freesat, Freeview and Virgin. ITV2 HD will launch in October, with ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD launching shortly afterwards.

- Following a review of GMTV, the early-morning programme will be relaunched as Daybreak in September 2010.

- The replacement show will be hosted by new signings and former The One Show hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley.

- The ITV1 network programme budget will be held below £800m in 2011 and 2012, a reduction on the current year's £820m forecast.

- The broadcaster has set up an investment fund of £75m that will be allocated to online developments, including content and digital channels, over the next three years.


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