As advertising revenue for print media falls, editorial staff is being trimmed and critics are being pushed to the front of that queue. Since 1990, one-quarter of the newspaper work force has disappeared, according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And as the television audience turns more and more toward the internet for information on its shows, many of the traditional critics are blogging in a landscape growing with voracious fans. Networks are increasingly reaching out to websites, some even hiring publicists whose specialty is navigating the blogosphere.
“Television publicity these days is much more about finding ways to spread messages virally,” said Chris Ender, senior VP of communications at CBS. “You can virtually get to the audience,” another network executive added. “It used to be that everybody would read (a review) in the local paper. But there are just so many outlets now with the internet and fewer and fewer people are reading papers.”
But some argue about the credibility between traditional critics and fan-blogging. “That’s the difference between some, not all, bloggers and a seasoned journalist. The blogging community has no rules,” said one exec.
The January conference for television critics to sample new shows was cancelled this year due to the writers’ strike. The July conference is proceeding, with more and more online media being added to the list of invitees. The power of blogsites like Perez Hilton, Television Without Pity and TV Squad is unmistakable.
All the major networks have online blogs for their feature shows and offer social networking that allow fans to add photos, clips with the ease of a cut and paste code.
The Australian critic community is far more modest than the US. Here, the newspaper critic remains prominent amongst the News and Fairfax Press. Radio presenters and commentators can be influential, especially in the short-term, to remind the audience to see something on the box later that night. And online blogs and messageboards complement EPGs and fan sites.
Flagship shows like Underbelly and So You Think You Can Dance are instrumental in driving the audience online, hungry for more information. With key events like the Logies, Big Brother and Eurovision looming, May will be the height of online traffic for Australian television audiences.
As Australian networks delay US programming, the astute viewer also seeks out a bit torrent file, no longer prepared to wait for it to air on free to air.
The other major force driving the audience to the internet is the sheer frustration of turning on the box to find the programme listed in the print newspaper can no longer be found. The internet becomes a tool of clarity, and a meeting place for community anger.
The launch of HD television was also poorly addressed by television websites. Most networks still have limited information.
One thing is clear. The voice of television critics is diversifying. Ten years ago it was the domain of a handful of print journalists, whose names became as iconic as the TV personalities they wrote about.
With the introduction of online media, there is now a multitude of opportunities for overworked publicists, forward-thinking networks, ambitious bloggers and fans demanding to be heard.
Source: Broadcasting and Cable
Disclaimer: The author of this post may have been extremely biased in his opinions given he traverses the print, radio and online medium!