Mainstream media is far from dead

The power of network TV is still unparalleled online – will it ever be?

From time to time, you’ll hear reports of the death of mainstream media. Newspapers are dying, radio is on the way out, network TV ratings have shrunk dramatically etc. In most studies we learn that people are spending more time online and less with the “old media”.

All of this is true, but only to a point. The power of television, in particular, to drive behavior is still quite stunning.

In 1981, MTV launched to very small audience with an old, not very popular song as their first video: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Record stores reported large numbers of customers asking for the song and ordered up records to meet their customer’s needs. Record company execs started calling MTV asking how to get their videos on. A hit was made.

Now, 27 years later, we have plenty of internet stories that–while not quite that large–show that the internet has the potential to do the same. e.g. Fall Out Boy clamored itself up through Myspace.

Something this week caught my eye. Hallelujah, a 14 year old song from the late Jeff Buckley has been the #1 seller on iTunes for a week. There’s been no promotion in the iTunes store. How?

Well, an American Idol contestant sang an adequate cover of the song. And then, Simon Cowell mentioned that Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version is one of his favorite songs. From nowhere to #1 overnight.

I have yet to see an example where the internet has had that kind of impact that quickly. If you know of one, be sure to let me know, but I don’t see it. I guess that mainstream media business has got some legs after all…