At a recent breakfast meeting I attended, a fascinating point about media was made to me. Media isn’t just about providing good quality, well thought out content. It’s about providing it with a strong contextual framework.

Before, that context was clear. You had the 6 o’clock news, the morning paper – clear routines that established patterns of access to information. People expected information at certain times and were herded toward the limited range of media outlets where they could consume information.

Now, in a digital age, you’ve got so much information floating around that this ‘routine’ consumption of media has been smashed. In the digital world, audiences are empowered. Consumers of media are now spoiled for choice.

The role of an editor, then, is changing. Previously, editors were expected to build brands, primarily around audience stereotypes. Media, primarily, was not reactive – instead it built and established an identity that people wanted to engage with. Didn’t read the property section of the paper? No dramas. You’d have bought it anyway.

Of course, the great power of that media was the journey of discovery it could take people on – media could stand for an identity that people trusted, and they would essentially be buying into that identity.

By and large, that will still be a massive part of media.

But increasingly, the massive abundance of channels, combined with the merger of two way conversation into those channels, has meant that media must become more reactive and responsive as well. This is a balancing act, for sure – Vogue, for example, will always need to focus on leading trends.

Many media brands, however, will need to fight for relevance – and in doing this, develop the mechanism by which they add value to their audiences’ lives. Whether this be facilitating, rather than generating, trends, creating a convenience through e-commerce, or delivering content which increasingly adds value – the skills of drilling into audiences will become more and more important.

Of course, the major challenge to this is in limiting that journey of discovery – if one drills down far too much, and is to reactive, they lose the ability to provide that journey to consumers.

Media in the 21st century will be a balancing act. It’ll be interesting to see who can create the right balances for their brands – and which editors will be leading the deeper understanding required to execute correctly in modern media.

 

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Aside

Will media be able to go digital?

In 2013, the Indexed web contains at least 14.48 billion pages[1]. When you think about the amount of information that contains, it’s pretty staggering. But the most interesting thing about this figure? The number is beginning to decline.

Given the large and chaotic scale of the web, it comes as no surprise that traditional brands and media are under attack. The GFC has seen a decline in print media and an expansion in digital revenues, as people flock to the internet as their primary source of information[2].

However, the most fascinating thing about this phenomena is not the explosion in the availability of information, but rather the new found value that can be attached to a brand providing that information.

Let me explain. The web is an incredibly fragmented environment, with hundreds of different sources and pieces of information being thrown at consumers every day. Increasingly, this means that the value of raw information has reached a point where it is virtually valueless.

Now, media brands are finally evolving. Instead of the traditional providers of information that they were, they now must become arbiters of content.

What do I mean by this? Increasingly, media brands won’t become just providers of information – but instead, become providers of valued information. That means creating information and content which provides three key needs of consumers:

  • It is trustworthy. With trust comes a relationship between the source and the consumer, which converts into a willingness to engage and pay for/consume content in a monetized fashion. Engagement and two way conversation will be a huge part of this process.
  • It is relevant: the information engages and provides a range of information that not just relies on engaging an existing need, but anticipates future consumption and content needs.
  • It is convenient: this content is delivered in such a way that it is convenient and reduces/refines the clutter on the web for consumers – delivering in such a way that it supports a multi-channel delivery.

Now that information has reached a breaking point in the internet, those who can aggregate and fulfil these needs in the best possible way are going to be the media brands, websites and products that people aggregate around.

Increasingly, for big corporations, this is going to be a massive market to exploit. The major issue, however, for brands engaging in this process will always be perception of bias – which is a problem for any brand launching a major content marketing strategy.

Will media brands die in the digital age? My feeling is no. They will simply evolve into what they do best: be arbiters and providers of relevant content and information. Will people pay for this service? I’m not certain. But I do think that media brands that can provide and fulfil these needs will be of immense value – whether in the form of advertising or paying for content, or both, I’m not sure.

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