Media Saturation? Economic slowdowns & the media in Trinidad & Tobago

In the last few years, changes in regulations have made it easier for entrepreneurs to launch their own TV/radio stations, newspapers and magazines, so there has been a proliferation of media channels in Trinidad and Tobago. And this is to say nothing of the increasing broadband penetration and the growth of the internet on the islands, and the number of companies operating news and entertainment-based websites, hosting streams of radio or TV content, or online versions of print publications (like us).

In the last few years, the T&T economy grew rapidly on the strength of soaring oil prices, and both the government and the private sector were spending lavishly. But with the global economic meltdown, T&T’s expenditure in private and public enterprises has ground to a near halt.

Advertising budgets, for better or worse, are among the first to be cut. Then companies begin to downsize. So in this climate of tight budgets and decreased spending, wither the plethora of media outlets that have saturated the market in the last few years?

If there is anything positive to come from the recession, what we can hope is that this economic climate will separate the sheep from the goats, so that the providers with the highest quality content who best serve the needs of their customers are the ones who will survive. Will it be as economists often say: last in, first out?

Two local newspapers, the Express and the Guardian, have both increased their newsstand prices in the last week. It’s been a controversial move, but in all fairness both newspapers have kept their prices fixed for years in the face of inflation that galloped to 15% last year, and with advertising revenues slipping, they have to find a way to survive. An extra 50 cents or TT$1 I don’t think will break anybody’s bank. At worst, it would lead to an extra $20 spent a month which, as one fellow Facebook user commented in a debate on the matter, is less than a fried chicken combo meal at KFC.

The smartest media outlets (in my opinion, anyway) have been even more aggressive in looking for their advertising revenue by emphasing how important it is for companies to stay visible and to encourage patronisation of their products and services, now perhaps even more than ever. Others have been brave enough even to launch new products in this climate–and many have found themselves having to give away new magazines, for example, free of charge to boost circulation and increase awareness. Others are partnering with organisations to pool resources. Still others are throwing in the towel, and looking for greener pastures or surer sells.

And what about us? MEP‘s been family-owned and run for nearly 20 years, dedicated to our network of clients, supporters and readers, and passionate about the material we produce. We don’t intend to go out of business any time soon, and always see a silver lining in the darkest of storm clouds. We have two new websites in the works, new partners, and new distribution channels in the works to turn crisis into opportunity. We look forward to sharing all the developments with you in the coming months… 🙂 Next up: the new Discover T&T website…

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