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.