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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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As the Bank Turns

Before all the memories of the crisis fade, bankers would do well to consider a recent development in the entertainment industry: the demise of two venerable soap operas.

There's something about business that seems to produce short memories. Look at the banking industry, where the credit crisis-induced horrors and fears of 2008 and 2009 have vanished, big salaries and bonuses are back, and institutions are pulling out all the stops to fight new and stricter regulations.

But before all the memories of the crisis fade, bankers would do well to consider recent developments in the entertainment industry -- specifically ABC's announcement that it would cancel two venerable soap operas: "All My Children" (which first aired in 1970) and "One Life to Live" (which debuted in 1968). The official reason for the respective death sentences: "[The] changing viewing patterns of the audience." That would leave only one soap ("General Hospital") on ABC.

Prior to the announcement, the website Deadline Hollywood reported, "'All My Children' … recently posted two weeks of back-to-back all-time lows in the key Women 18-49 demographic, in which it is dead last among the six daytime dramas on the air, drawing [a] paltry 463,000 for the week of March 7, down 34 percent vs. last year. For the same week, 'All My Children' was also last in total viewers, averaging 2.32 million. (ABC's 'One Life to Live' did only marginally better with 2.36 million)."

Here's some context to illustrate how bad these numbers really are. A new PricewaterhouseCoopers study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that U.S. Internet advertising revenue hit a record $26 billion in 2010 (a 15 percent increase from 2009 levels), thanks in large part to the popularity of online videos and social media. PwC also reported that fourth-quarter advertising revenue hit a record $7.4 billion -- up 19 percent from Q4 2009.

Meanwhile, Facebook alone garnered $1.86 billion in ad revenue in 2010 -- a number that is expected to grow 118 percent, to $4 billion, in 2011, according to a recent article in Fast Company. Facebook has 610,736,920 member profiles -- more than 200 times the number of people who watched "All My Children" on March 7.

It wasn't all that long ago (about the time of the third-world debt crisis of the 1980s) that soaps were a dominant and very profitable form of entertainment. Along the way, there were many efforts to make them "relevant," and their lives were even extended with new technologies (think: VCRs, DVDs, TiVo and DVRs, and on-demand). Ultimately, though, soaps became dinosaurs that could not survive.

What are you doing to make sure that your organization does not become the "All My Children" of banking?

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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