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At The Kelsey Group, we’ve come to appreciate that our new owner, BIAfn head Tom Buono, is a major strategist. While Buono’s roots are in the finance of traditional TV, radio and newspapers, he’s mostly thinking about their next steps in the Internet era — and the next steps for local media in general.

In an interview with TVNewsday Editor Harry Jessell, Buono notes that BIAfn’s perspective is that it is all part of a “media ecosystem.” “When you introduce some kind of disruptive force, the whole ecosystem changes,” he says. “We’ve seen this happen over the history of media. Now we’ve got the Internet entering and the Internet just dramatically changes the media ecosystem in terms of relationships, in terms of accountability, in terms of transparency, how quickly you can see ROI information, the cost-per-point differential and actually shifting from cost per point to cost for leads or actual performance in terms of purchases.

“Unfortunately for print media — newspaper, yellow pages, magazines — they’re very vulnerable to what’s going on,” Buono observes. “Longtime heritage newspapers are going out of business because their business model can’t adapt to this new environment.”

TV stations, however, are more adaptable. “Television is much better situated for survival and actually can thrive, but it needs to be redefined in terms of what the business it is in,” says Buono. To adapt, however, TV stations must redefine themselves as being community portals or content providers of local content. “TV broadcasters have to start looking at their business differently and saying. I’ve got these assets. I’ve got the ability to generate content locally,” he says. “I’ve got a sales force that can go out and reach advertisers. I’ve got a local identity already established in this marketplace. I have a brand that has value. I have got an audience that already follows what we’re doing. How do I capitalize on that?”

Sales are also critical. “The sales force needs to be trained differently. They have to be selling multiplatform. They can’t just be selling spots on a TV station. They need to be selling a whole range of services for local advertisers. It’s how can I help the local advertisers be successful, not how can I sell spots on my TV station.”

“In summary, the current economic pressure may be substantial and must be addressed,” says Buono. “But the long-term survival of existing traditional media depends on them undertaking internal and external reviews and taking new and different action to transform their business model to succeed in this changing media ecosystem.”

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