The Slow Death of Traditional Media
Desperation time as old guard clings to falling market share
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Bill Gates once famously said that we systematically overestimate the change that will occur in two years, while underestimating the change that will come in the next ten.
The ongoing conversation about the death of legacy media definitely fits that mold.
Over the last five to ten years, people have been talking about how the newspaper, magazine, or radio station would become all but obsolete. And while certainly things have changed in all of these industries, it’s clear that there has not been a full paradigm shift yet.
Here is the evidence that we have finally reached that inflection point.
Fixing the Plane
In a recent interview at the City University of New York’s journalism school, Ken Lerer described the challenges of traditional media as follows:
You have to fix the plane while you’re flying it.
Lerer, a co-founder of the Huffington Post and currently the Chairman for Buzzfeed, is alluding to the fact that legacy media has to maintain old business models based on subscription and print ad revenue, while successfully venturing into the digital world. The latter category is already hard enough, even without taking into account the balancing act of the former.
The moral of the story? Some of these “planes” are going to land safely, but most of them are going to crash and burn.
The cost structure of legacy media just doesn’t make sense in today’s digital world. Overhead is high, and revenue is harder to find due to the limited success of paywalls, rampant ad blocking, and the steady fall in display ad prices due to the emergence of programmatic bidding.
Why has legacy media been so slow to adopt change? Why don’t they just lay off half of their staff, ditch print operations, and start from scratch?
It’s because their major revenue sources are as slow at adopting as they are.
In 2015, there was only one age demographic with more than half of its constituents reading a daily newspaper, and that was “65 years old and up”:
That said, the people that still read newspapers are among the wealthiest people in the country. Warren Buffett, for example, reads five a day. But even he does not know how to save the print industry from its woes.
Meanwhile, Madison Avenue has been notoriously slow at evolving to meet the needs of the digital revolution. If the biggest advertisers are still demanding the status quo, it makes it very difficult to “fix the plane”.
All of the above companies are “unicorns” valued at $1 billion or more by private investors, which include venture capital stalwarts such as Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures, RRE Ventures, or Lerer Hippeau.
More importantly, however, they’ve also posted strategic investments from legacy media companies that are trying to wisely hedge their bets. Some of these include NBC Universal, The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, and Hearst.
Digital will become the largest channel for ad revenue globally by 2019 – investors and companies that believe in the media business should position themselves accordingly.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020
How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade
The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.
This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.
The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s
Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.
|Rank||Company||# Laid Off||% of Workforce||As of|
Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.
The Cause of Layoffs
Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.
Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.
Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.
Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.
Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai
The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market
Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.
Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.
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