Every generation acquires a label: Babyboomers, born after World War II; Generation X, born in the 1960s and 1970s; then the Millenials. In 2012 advertising executive Adam Shlachter coined Generation S for the generation coming of age now. His S is for screen. Writing in the trade journal Advertising Age, Schlacter noted that 27% of new television sets were Internet-ready. Sales of computer tablets have doubled to 690 million in a year. Two billion smartphones are in use worldwide. About Generation S, Schlacter noted: “These youngsters are growing up in a world where screens are used for everything from entertainment, communication, education, shopping and transacting.” Products from legacy media industries are not high among preferences for Generation S.
5.6.2 Legacy Media Prospects
One of the first executives of legacy media to grasp the dubious future of old-style media was Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of the New York Times. Sulzberger said the future needed to be “platform agnostic.” He charted a course for the Times to offer its content in any medium desired by the audience. The Times, he said, would not be a slave to the printing press. Sulzberger recognized that the Times needed to consider itself in the news business, not the newspaper business.
Sulzberger’s lesson for legacy media industries is to focus on content. The issue for many legacy enterprises is that they may be arriving at the party too late. For many newspapers, for example, Internet upstarts have pre-empted them from being major players. Consider the publications that have folded or cut back frequency in recent years—the Rocky Mountain News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. All had an online presence, but too little, too late. The New York Times, however, moved adroitly and relatively early with a platform- agnostic mindset. By late October of 2015, it reported 1,041,000 paid online-only subscribers. Yet although its readership exceeds 2 million, the vast majority of its readers are non-paying visitors to its site. Print ad sales are substantially down; online ads are doing much better except that only one-third of the New York Times revenue is derived from digital sales.
Writing Prompt Applying Your Media Literacy—Platform-Neutral Future
Do you agree with Adam Schlacter that young people today can be aptly called Generation S? Or is he painting too broad a stroke?
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Summary: Legacy Media Mass media products are rooted in seven legacy industries—newspapers, magazines, books, recordings, movies, radio and television. These mass media represent the history of today’s mass media, and although mass media in its current form has evolved significantly beyond its roots, understanding the roots of legacy media provides important insights into the purpose, methods and trajectory of mass media in the 21st century.
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