Tag Archives: media sales

Journalism, by the Numbers, by the Wayside

For a quick by-the-numbers lesson on the sad state of current media affairs, read the opening sentence of media guru Ken Auletta’s column in this week’s New Yorker:

In the past three years, newspaper advertising revenues have plummeted, a fourth of all newsroom employees have been laid off or have accepted buyouts, and more than a hundred free local papers have folded.

The industry’s unlikely hero, Auletta continues, is AOL, which has hired 900 journalists in the last year, adding another 40 each week to its mushrooming Patch local newsroom network. Or should that be anti-hero? The compendium of online newspapers in small, affluent communities numbers 700 in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and each is run by an editor who makes, Auletta reports, between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

Just a few short years ago, $40k was the starting salary for a bottom-of-the-masthead magazine reporter. Not, certainly, what an effective Editor-in-Chief should even consider. Honestly, I don’t know what Patch writers make, but I know it’s not much, and that it is a source of much nervous and angry chatter among journalists who are hungry for work but unwilling to chew and swallow their pride for sustenance. It’s no wonder we’re all so fucking bitter.

Other, funnier numbers from the story include:

  • 50% of internet surfers logged on using AOL pay-per-minute dial-up service in the late 1990s
  • 35 million AOL users in 2002
  • 4 million AOL users today (and falling precipitously)
  • 75% of current AOL dial-up subscribers have DSL or cable hook-ups and don’t need AOL — but don’t realize it
  • $9.99-$25.90 per month: price of AOL’s dial-up plan options [not in the story; I added that one]

Still being able to subscribe to the New Yorker and read it in print on the subway: Priceless.

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Stuck on Tapes

Score.

In a bit of news that warms my analog heart, Engadget today reports that VHS sales (in the UK) doubled in 2009:

According to a report by [the UK]’s Entertainment Retailers’ Association (ERA), while music sales dropped by 0.8 percent in 2009 (the lowest decrease in five years) and all other video fell by by 10.6 percent, VHS sales more than doubled, from 44,377 in 2008 to 95,201 last year. Of course, everything is relative — while PC games, for instance, declined nearly 25% last year, some 6.4 million titles were sold.

Sure, the numbers are paltry next to, well, just about any other type of media, but the trend makes sense to me. Here’s my completely unscientific take. I don’t think that it’s the cache of the antiquated medium, the way wannabe audiophiles buy records as status symbols. Really, there’s no precedent for VHS tapes being “cool.” What there is precedent for is them being cheap as hell. For instance, I just picked up The Blob, Cronenberg’s Shivers (produced by Ivan Reitman) and Rooftops (1989) for a buck apiece at a gas station-slash-Quiznos-slash-minimart-slash-collaborative-antique-store in Ohio. Don’t know Rooftops? Me neither, but I’m pretty psyched. From the cover:

Jason Gedrick stars as T, a misunderstood loner who has escaped the heartless, drug-ridden streets of New York’s Lower East Side to make a life for himself on the roof-tops of abandoned tenement buildings. T and the other homeless kids live by their wits during the day and “combat dance” every night at an empty lot they call the “Garden of Eden.”

Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have bought any of these on DVD because they would have been too expensive to justify the purchase. But I’ve got a working VHS player so that I haven’t had to replace my awesome tape collection, and so that I can continue to grow it on the cheap. So there’s my proof. Poor folks like me in the market for pre-21st Century cinema, might just keep the VHS trade going for a while. VHS. QED.