Executive Privilege: The next step for CMU’s media groups

A small step for media at Carnegie Mellon

Last Thursday, just a few hours after Midway opened, about 200 members of the Carnegie Mellon media community gathered for a shared barbeque. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising or special — but in a way, it is. At no point in recent memory has the media community come together as it did last week. This touch of unity is exactly what campus media needs. In fact, if we don’t begin to work together, media at Carnegie Mellon will become obsolete.

The media landscape is changing across the board. The popularity of DVDs is minimizing the role of the theater in the movie business. TiVo and on-demand video have made television customizable. Radio is under attack from the MP3 player, file sharing, and podcasting. Newspapers can never be as up-to-date as an online news source, but fewer and fewer people want to read the news anyway — they’re looking for video. Today’s technology is changing the way we use and experience our media — it’s time Carnegie Mellon’s media caught up.

Some newspapermen have said that the Internet would bring about the death of the newspaper. I’m sure that many years from now, there will be no paper in the news business. But that really has no negative implications for the general public. All the functions served by today’s paper news will be served by whatever new forms are to come. Even the sense of community is replicable. Eventually, news websites might tell you tell you which of your friends have read an article you’re reading or viewed a video you’re watching. There’s nothing stopping news from joining with the online social networking technology that’s made Facebook so successful. No doubt, there will be great change. But change in media should be seen as an opportunity, not as a threat.

Not only can campus media best serve their community through collaboration, but our organizations can also best accomplish our individual goals by working together.

The biggest challenge we face today is capturing an audience, whether it be viewers, listeners, or readers. Our audiences are accustomed to sensationalism and interactivity; campus news in a single medium just can’t keep up. But by using our collective resources to find the best content and then make it consumable in as many forms as possible, from print to podcast, we can keep the campus interested and involved.

But better content isn’t the only way a cooperative relationship would help our organizations. Undoubtedly, cooperative recruiting, marketing, sales, accounting, and management could streamline the overall amount of work that must occur for all of our organizations to function optimally.

Marketing is a task none of our organizations does well enough — but joint marketing would make the task easier, in terms of both labor and expense.
The sale of ads, sponsorships, and underwriting is, perhaps, another of the most obvious areas where consolidation could yield great benefits for all parties.

Advertisers know that choosing one medium isn’t enough for their marketing campaign to have a big impact. Jointly, packages of marketing opportunities that span the various media will make the most compelling product.

All this is a far cry from a shared barbeque, but there’s nothing stopping it from coming together over the course of the next year. With Jennifer Parry Bird set to return as the advisor to all the major media groups, it’s clear that those in the Office of Student Activities see the potential.

With the spectrum of Carnegie Mellon’s capacity for technological innovation at our fingertips, there is no reason why our media organizations shouldn’t be on the cutting edge of media’s evolution.