Win BIG Media CEO Phillip Stutts predicted that the traditional news industry will face a “slow, then sudden” death if outlets continue to pump out content that breaks from the interests of their audience.
“People want freedom of choice. And when you take away their freedom of choice by dictating what they have to hear, what they have to see. When you only serve one side—there’s a disruptive model coming,” he told Fox News Digital.
Stutts, who has contributed to over 1,545 election victories, including three presidential victories through political marketing, said the business of politics holds many parallels to the media industry. He compared several high-profile news organizations to political campaigns that fizzle out in general elections when they continue to only cater to their base—serving only the most hardcore subscribers.
“They’ve grossly underestimated what the market is. They think at a mass scale people want niche,” Stutts said.
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Warner Bros. Discovery’s CNN laid off hundreds of employees earlier this month, from high-profile talent to rank-and-file staffers. The Washington Post has announced it will cut jobs in the first quarter of 2023. Newspaper juggernaut Gannett recently cut roughly 6% of its news workforces, and NPR has enacted a near-total hiring freeze, ending its summer internship program in the process.
Stutts specifically pointed to The Post ending production of its Sunday paper as an example of how people are picking and choosing the content, creators, editorial writers, and topics that they want—rather than subjecting themselves to an inundation of content they do not find interesting.
“People don’t want mass news. They want to get the news from the people that they believe, and trust, and they don’t want any more fluff. And that’s the model,” he said.
Through his experiencing founding corporate marketing agency Win BIG Media and political marketing firm Go BIG Media, Stutts asserted that waning media companies are suffering because they advocate for policies that half of their customers do not agree with, during an economic period when people need to make smart decisions with their money. Such a lack of alignment with customer needs is a common “fundamental flaw” among many ailing institutions, including higher education and the tech industry.
Both higher-education and the tech field are facing financial hardships like the media and entertainment industry.
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Compared to two years ago, the number of undergraduates enrolled in college nationwide is down 9.4%, according to CNBC. Numerous schools are in financial jeopardy, with some having to close entirely. The number of colleges forced to close in the past 10 years has quadrupled since the previous decade.
Meanwhile, the tech industry, which just a few years ago was rigorously pursued by college graduates for its vast array of available and well-paying jobs, has seen mass hiring freezes and layoffs in the past year. Nearly 1,000 tech companies have laid off more than 150,000 tech workers since the start of 2022.
“They’re just arrogantly running out there and letting their employees dictate what their customers want. That’s a huge problem. That’s why these companies are falling all over themselves,” Stutts said. “This is suicide. It’s business suicide.”
He predicted that startups like Bari Weiss’ The Free Press, and independent journalists like her and Matt Taibbi, will continue to see growth because they court readers on the left, right and center. But these smaller-scale operations could grow into emerging media empires, thus continuing the cycle of media mega-corporations. Stutts compared the shift to the fall of the cable package model and the rise of streaming subscriptions, which now are packaged together and cost just as much as previous television packages.
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“They’re growing into a mass media over time. So, what you’re seeing is the destruction of the old model, a rebirth in seeds, which is the individual, that will grow into bigger flowers or a bigger ecosystem and then that becomes mass media again. It’s just a cycle,” he added.
“They’re getting replaced by people who do not find them credible anymore.”
Some networks, like CNN, have said they would reorient and try and cater to more Americans. Stutt said it will be interesting to see what happens over the next year, and whether networks will shift their business models, or whether current PR speak is just a “stunt” to get people to keep their subscriptions.
“There’s a massive realignment going on right now,” he added.
Stutts has written two books on business marketing and management, “The Undefeated Marketing System” and “Fire Them Now.”
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