Intelligence is the ability to adapt to changeStephen Hawking
(CMR) There is a change in the air and it’s palpable. A changing of the guards is happening right before our eyes and it is leaving many in a state of confusion and disbelief – news media in the Cayman Islands will never be the same again.
There are serious rumblings about how Loop Cayman, Cayman Compass and the Caymanian Times will survive in the coming months. By their own admittance, Cayman News Service (CNS) is also struggling to pay their bills and can no longer rely on adverting revenue to do so. Instead, they are asking the public for monetary donations to support “independent journalism” in the Cayman Islands.
CNS recently published both an editorial piece and story about an odd collaboration between the Cayman Compass and the government. Apparently, the government believes they will be able to appease the outcry created by the now-defunct Cayman 27 by having CIG TV pull content from the Compass.
The failure and ultimate closure of Cayman 27 has been tooted as an indictment on the Cayman Islands government; when in truth it is merely a sign of the times and an indictment on its owners.
We could dissect this in-depth but suffice it to say Cayman 27’s days were numbered a long time ago and was only sealed by management’s refusal to pay their government fees for the past three years. Hurley’s Media acquired the traditional tv station with a loan from “Uncle Dart”; hoping that it could turn around a non-profitable business in a time when the industry is undergoing significant changes.
Despite the outcry regarding its demise, the truth of the matter is most users were not engaged or even watching Cayman 27. The delivery method that news consumers engage with most now is not sitting down in front of a television station at 6:00 pm to catch the happenings of the day.
Readers want their news fast and delivered instantaneously to their phones. In fact, they are part of the news capturing and often flood CMR with new tips, pics and the like throughout the day.
More than 80% of CMR users engage via their mobile devices. Any news platform that cannot deliver and engage at that level will soon be in the graveyard with the dinosaurs. Not to toot our own horn, but CMR has acquired a vast social media following. In less than two years we have surpassed everyone else including the granddaddies of the industry.
This graph demonstrates several key factors:
- Social media growth in two years compared to organizations that have been around for 27, 10 and 5 years is significant.
- User engagement surpasses all the others despite them having a significantly higher number of page likes.
Love change, fear staying the sameMaxime Lagacé
There is another major shift that is about to occur in the world of news here in the Cayman Islands. Change is the name of the game. CNS has made some interesting points in this regard and yet missed the final mark entirely.
The relevance of the Compass has diminished significantly over the years and one only has to look at the stacks of printed newspapers in the local grocery stores and gas stations. We do not even know the cost of buying the Compass because it’s been years since we have purchased any print newspaper.
On occasion one is read during breakfast at the local coffee shop only to be left on the table as a placeholder.
It was sold some months back by the every so quirky and controversial David Legge. Seen as incredibly anti-Caymanian the publication further lost its luster during his ownership. It was seemingly kept afloat by big businesses who could afford full-page color ads with no concern for revenue generation and immigration job adverts.
The Compass will be announcing a big change on October 7 as they recently. We have heard rumblings for months now that the new owners and editor want to make it more of a magazine-style publication. Time will tell soon enough!
CMR has heard for yeares that the Compass is struggling to be relevant.
Ironically, an executive of the Compass recently showed their hand of desperation when they stopped by our breakfast table at a local coffee shop to inquire as to why we had purchased the Compass.
The question was directed at a young man who was enjoying a cup of coffee with CMR head. He promptly informed the Compass executive he had not purchased the paper but was having a quick perusal. When asked why he wasn’t purchasing it and what more the Compass could do to engage its users the young professional civil servant replied:
“Be more like Cayman Marl Road”.
The feedback was lost on the executive as he then asked how to do that and was directed to speak to me. Ironically, the entire time he had no idea and couldn’t quite understand the point.
We all eventually had a chuckle at the irony of a Compass executive stopping at a table that CMR executive was sitting at to ask how to improve their reader engagement. The bigger point of change was not lost on us.
The Compass is about to lose a significant part of its job advertising revenue with the launch of a mandatory WORC advertising portal. Advertisers will have to advertise via the government agency and are no longer required to produce display adverts for work permit applications.
This entire stream of revenue will disappear in a matter of weeks.
The writing on the wall for the Compass is clear and the new owners can only float the paper for so long. So a collaboration with the government ran CIG TV appears to be a logical transition – except it’s not workable for an organization that must realize profits to stay afloat.
CIG TV is not a profitable entity and so a collaboration with one that is will no doubt have some interesting implications. CIG TV has also not proven to be entirely successful at marketing its own platform to date.
We won’t get into the dissecting of the perception this creates in a world that is more and more skeptical of any news media’s ability to deliver impartial content – CNS has already done an excellent job of putting forth that argument.
The real question is will this allow the Compass to remain profitable? Only time will tell but it appears less and less likely. A government collaboration will not revive an industry hit by worldwide changes. Ironic that they are willing to collaborate with the Compass to increase their profitability but was unable to assist Cayman 27 in any way.
In 2017, it was reported that The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper, was expected to burn through £90m after incurring damage of £200m the year before.
The Economist once described The Guardian as:
“[T]he most stylish paper in the hyper-competitive British quality pack, the wittiest and best-designed, the strongest for features, the one most likely to reflect modern life.”
At it’s peak it sold half a million papers per day. In June 2016, at peak Brexit-vote tension, The Guardian online claimed to have over 165m unique monthly browsers
The question then becomes: If they can’t make it work, how can anyone? What future is there for journalism and traditional media?
After you’ve done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.Alfred Edward Perlman
The timetable for change is moving every so quickly as time progresses. It used to be that a business idea and design could be relevant and sustainable for 10+ years at a time. Now, within a few years, one has to be prepared to re-evaluate everything.
Here at CMR we live by motto: Constantly re-evaluate what works and make adjustments quickly.
CNS talks about their relevance 10-years-ago and how they were the game changers but now admit to struggling and asking for reader donations. The irony is that they created the first online news platform but there have been many challengers along the way: Loop Cayman, Caymanian Times, iEyeNews Cayman, CayPolitics and Cayman Marl Road.
They don’t acknowledge most of these and instead self-praise themselves for their accomplishment 10-years ago for breaking the mold. Now, the mold has shifted yet again and the struggles are ever so evident.
The inability to even acknowledge players like CMR, Loop Cayman and iEyeNews Cayman demonstrates a type of arrogance that is reminisence of the Compass and their glory days. CNS may play the “we are super poor card” but the traditional executive, tight suit feel of superiority is still very much in the air.
After just two years on the scene, CMR has revamped it’s website platform entirely and is working on several new and unique ideas to keep Cayman’s newsreaders fully engaged.
We love talk shows but realize a daily talk show is too much! As a result or bi-weekly segment “The Cold Hard Truth” averages, 100 viewers per show.
It’s not professionally produced with high-end equipment and due to lackluster internet upload speeds is often pixelated. Despite that, we have had up to 464 concurrent viewers tuned in to a single show.
Perspective – that’s more persons than were tuned into Cayman 27’s live streams of the Royals visiting Cayman in May 2019.
We live in a world where the newsreaders have becomes the reporters and CMR has uniquely capitalized on this format. We cover the news people want to hear – gossip and all. Many are not willing to admit to secretly loving CMR content and format but the numbers simply don’t lie.
However, we are not here to tout our own horns – instead, we live by our favorite quote and remain vigilant and toil into the night. Hard work is no guarantee of success either – but knowing your audience and what they want and being able to deliver on there is a start.
We care less about writing techniques, typos and formalities and focus on constantly invigorating and becomes the voice of the people. Yes, we have writing degrees, law degrees and can write to a college-level – but who really cares? The average reader wants it simply explained in common language.
The formula for success in news is not set in stone and is no longer controlled by an elite few and that is the biggest takeaway from the shakeup of media in Cayman.