Katie Couric, Walter Cronkite and You

Posted on April 28, 2011

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Katie Couric is leaving The CBS Evening News after just five years as the show’s anchor. Walter Cronkite held that job for 19 years, nearly four times as long. Cronkite’s successor, Dan Rather, held the job for 24 years until 2005 when Couric took over.

There has been no shortage of analysis on Couric’s work as anchor of this iconic national news program. Some people think she’s been an amazing breath of fresh air while others find her lacking the credibility of her predecessors. 

No matter what you think of her, I would argue Couric’s shorter-than-usual stay has less to do with her work than it does with changes in business, society and technology.

Like many media companies, CBS was not publicly traded until well into Rather’s reign as anchor. Having stockholders and reporting quarterly results has had a huge impact on the pressure for media companies to produce immediate results. The concept of taking time to build audience and credibility has all but disappeared from the media landscape.

Access to information has also changed dramatically. Cronkite didn’t have to compete with CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. For the most part Rather did not have to compete with Google News, Yahoo! News or the Huffington Post, let alone Facebook and Twitter.

It feels safe to say that the days of Cronkite and Rather are gone, not only for network television news but in every form of media. Consumers have more choices, ratings feedback is almost instantaneous and financial pressures don’t allow for expensive product development.

What’s emerging instead is a new template for success that rewards flexibility and creativity.

Take for instance Glenn Beck and Jennifer Lopez. Beck is currently seen on television, heard on radio, has written several books, has a thriving Web site and performs a live stage tour every year. Lopez has acted in movies, appeared on television, has a successful musical career and is co-producing a new worldwide television show.

The common thread between those two polar opposites is building a platform with multiple outlets for your brand. Being a part of the CBS News brand isn’t enough to sustain your career anymore. Long-term success in media requires building your personal brand across multiple platforms, then lending that brand to media companies like CBS where it is instantly recognizable which cuts down the time it takes to build an audience.

If you are ready to get started building your brand but aren’t sure how, I know a good mechanic who can help.

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