Big News Week Shows Shifting Media Landscape

It’s been a busy half-week for Las Vegas casino news. In the past three days,

• MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren announced that the company might sell parts of its CityCenter development, which was proposed in 2005 (and opened in 2009) as a path-breaking project that would change the Strip forever.

•Wynn Resorts mega-shareholder Kazuo Okada, who has been feuding with chairman Steve Wynn, announced that he is resigning his seat on the company’s board of directors, though as far as the legal tussle goes, he has not yet begun to fight.

•Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill allowing licensed Nevada online gaming operators (there are about 20) to offer gaming across state lines, when and if Nevada signs compacts with other online-friendly states.

• A shoot-out on the Strip left three people dead and made international headlines.

• Cirque du Soleil announced the name of its forthcoming show at Mandalay Bay, Michael Jackson: ONE.

•Caesars Entertainment reluctantly announced that, after two or so years of “no resort fees” as a cornerstone of its hotel marketing, it would begin charging a mandatory resort fee—because “guests demanded it”.

•Wynn Las Vegas president Marilyn Winn Spiegel stepped down.

What’s interesting to me isn’t that so much happened in such a short period; it’s the way that the stories broke, and how coverage shaped the news.

News item one, Murren’s announcement, happened on the company’s quarterly earnings call.

News item two came via a statement from Okada, keeping with his role as a major shareholder.

News items three and four were standard news stories, with near-simultaneous coverage from traditional print and TV journalists.

News item five was a typical PR announcement, picked up by media outlets and online.

News item six, the Caesars resorts fees, first surfaced on a blog that was subsequently deleted, but gained enough critical mass to push the company to issue a formal statement, which was picked up by the dailies.

I learned about seven, Spiegel’s resignation/reassignment, via I don’t know if they broke the story, but I haven’t seen it in either of the dailies or on any local TV news.

The past few days are evidence of how the way news is reported and disseminated is changing, as is particularly seen in the last two items.  Fifteen years ago, Caesars adding resort fees simply wouldn’t be a news story. Customers would have found out about it when they booked, grumbled, and that would be about it.

But last night whoever was monitoring the Caesars Entertainment social media feeds found out just how unhappy a segment of the Vegas-visiting population was with the news: a group of Tweeters spent much of the evening playing furious hashtag and @reply games, letting the company know just what they thought.

Parenthetically, Caesars’ problem with the fees is compounded because, up to this week, the company was so vocal about what a bad thing the mandatory add-ons are. It’s sort of like when a family-values conservative is caught with his pants down, or a wild-eyed social activist is seen being shuttled by limo to a five-star hotel—it gives the lie to everything you thought you knew about them.

Now, is this going to change anything? No one “demands” mandatory add-ons (at least no human being I’ve ever encountered, but I’m working from an admittedly small sample of people), but most guests will tolerate them—like bag fees for airlines, we’ll whine and complain about it, but we’ll have our credit card ready if we want to get on board. For all of the fury on Twitter last night, that was just a very vocal minority. They may speak for the majority, but it’s unclear if the majority feels strongly enough about resort fees to do anything about it.

So can making social media noise make a difference? If the noise is loud enough, it can. Recently Maker’s Mark made headlines when a similar Twitter (and Facebook) storm caused the whiskey-maker to backtrack on its plans to reduce the amount of alcohol in its signature blend. Anyone remember Netflix’s abortive Fall 2011 attempt to split it business in two and rename itself Qwikster? There are probably a ton more examples, and I’m sure a social media guru somewhere has a handy infographic he (or she) would love to share that details the more colorful ones.

We’ll see if the Caesars resort fee imbroglio ends up getting qwikstered. I’d say it’s a possibility, but wouldn’t give you odds on it right now, simply because the company’s financial picture might have made them a necessity of staying solvent, bad PR and all.

In any event, what I’ve learned from the past few days is that traditional journalism still contributes most of the news and does the legwork that most online writers need as grist for their own spins on the story, but “new media” is making big strides in not just sharing breaking news but changing the story.