Ad Revenue Matters to You

I’ll admit that my inner geek drives the direction of my reading lately; I tend to read Techmeme as often as I read Edutopia. However, one of my all time favorite reading topics has always been the direction and drama associated with mainstream media and its delivery to consumers. Odd, I know. Most people would say they love to read trashy novels, or scan baseball scores (which I often do), but not this guy. Give me an opinion piece about the future of participatory media, the changing of the guard in the newsroom, or something like this one from the New York Times:

For newspapers, the news has swiftly gone from bad to worse. This year
is taking shape as their worst on record, with a double-digit drop in
advertising revenue, raising serious questions about the survival of
some papers and the solvency of their parent companies.

and I am like the proverbial pig in…well, understood.

I don’t know if this story piques my interest for the usual reasons, but I know that it makes me begin thinking about the world that I am helping teachers prepare students for. It’s topics conjure up all kinds of reminiscences from last summer when we were all struggling to shrug off Andrew Keen’s attacks on connective writing and citizen publishing, and it calls to light the profound changes in literacy many of us have been discussing for several years.

Connection to Teaching and Learning

Often, I’ll find myself looking out at the vast expanse of my RSS reader and see similar topics being bandied about, and articles debated back and forth between individuals much smarter than me, and I’ll wonder where my connection back to the classroom teacher is–where is the correlation between George Siemens and the work he does, and the elementary teacher I work with who wants to differentiate instruction? Many times I find myself at a crossroads wondering how to find common ground for the theoretical applications I see, and the practical situations that teachers live through.

This article in the Times, amazingly, though obscurely, shows me a connection. When we look at the trends, just in the last two years (ad revenue dropped 8% last year, and is already down 12% from that number), that tells me that the sellers/advertisers are following their buyers/consumers eyes.  With that, come so many negative consequences:

  • assimilation of major newspapers or ownership groups perhaps taking away a decidedly local flavor
  • massive job losses in the printing industry
  • ink-stained elbows on Sunday mornings

The last bullet above, while in jest, does reflect some sentiment that, if you dig on Nicholas Carr, you might agree with.  We aren’t interacting with print media as often as we used to, and what effect will this have on our ability to read deeply?  Moreover, the real impetus behind my writing this tonight was to truly ask myself what are we preparing our students to consume?  Is literacy solely the manipulation of a texted page, or does it involve, as the article hinted at, the ability to decipher and decode the “vastly more choices” that online advertising offers to sellers?

So, I look at the classrooms I’ve been in this year and wonder, are we doing all that we can to prepare our students for a world with decidedly less printed paper than our own?

Positive Consequences:

Here’s another discerning thought that rises from this: how can we pull positives out of this development?  As with any technology, it’s social ramifications are natural offspring.  In this case, I see a lot of good coming out of the move to online news consumption:

  • smaller ecological footprint: fewer papers, fewer trees, fewer inks, fewer distribution trucks
  • more opportunities for connective writing
  • greater opportunity for dialogue between writer/publisher and reader through comments and forums

Erica had just reminded me of Pink’s book yesterday as she wrote about being able to finish it on her way out to San Jose for the Google Teacher Academy.  What this exemplifies is the shift away from one mode of production, to another that will involve some creative thought processes and a distinct need to train people in how to produce this new product.  It’s examples like this one that really make me analyze what we are asking our students to do in our classrooms;  are we preparing them for the classified ads of the future?


2 thoughts on “Ad Revenue Matters to You

  1. I enjoy reading your posts. You really make me think as generally, as an environmentalist, I am not sad about the loss of print. I also live in a rural area with very little good coverage of issues. I also question most news sources and their spin. I welcome the access to digital sources and the ability to connect, question, and evaluate.

    I am intrigued by your last question and what you feel students need to prepare for this future. For those of us who are training others this summer on new technologies, what would you consider an imperative for other teachers to hear in order to prepare our students?

  2. Actually, if you could find some students to tell them what they need, preferably students that have returned home from college or have recently entered the workforce after college. I think they have the best idea of what is to be expected of our students as they leave us, thus giving us an idea of what we need to be preparing them for.

    For me, the most transformative technology has been this medium and the ability to track multiple searches via RSS. It might be different for someone else; I have heard people talk that way about Skype or Twitter. I think we have to give meaningful reasons for people to see why they should change they way they organize their class. As a quick example, we are midway through designing our writing and thinking class, and several of the teachers have come up to me and stated that they simply cannot run their class the same way they used to. It just won’t work–“how will I read all of these essays?” Then we show them Google Docs, or blogging and RSS, and meaning starts to appear. Use the tools to make the teaching streamlined and less focused on the teacher.

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