How will you, the communicator, be affected by a changing media landscape in 2011 continued – part 2.
5. Digital media to go!
We live in a mobile age. “People all over the world are walking around with mini computers in their hands and you can basically let your imagination run wild with the endless possibilities that offers to the social media industry,” Niall Harbison indicates in a recent article. In Sweden alone, there are 700 000 iPhones (just under 10% of the entire population), not to mention a large part of the population that use smartphones by HTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.
It’s important to realize that the rise of mobile phones could mean a further increase in non-web Internet usage. Mobile devices are the perfect medium for applications and widgets that run on the Internet but do not require websites (MSN messenger, Spotify, Tweetdeck, Skype, etc).
This means that you, the communicator, need to start repackaging the message. Find new and more mobile-friendly methods to reach and engage with your audience. For examples, share videos and images to your audience for free, which in turn can be shared with their own network. Or create mobile phone applications (apps) and think about how to enhance your news releases for tablet computers.
Also, there are some fascinating things being done with QR codes, which can be scanned by smartphones and used to unlock enriched media content like an mp3, video, or digital coupon. We will see a rise in QR code usage as more and more people start using smartphones.
6. Experimentation with new Business Models
With the leveling of the playing field through the Internet, and the fact that information is now accessible and can be shared basically for free, established media is trying to create new business models to stay afloat in this landscape. One such model is pay wall. Especially newspapers are dealing with the question: “to pay-wall or not to pay-wall?”
There was quite a lot of discussion surrounding the decision to put up a paywall on the Times website. The newspaper itself predicted a drop in traffic by 90%, and in a recent article by BBC, the numbers turned out to be quite close to that. However, the newspaper was quite optimistic about the fact that it had 105 000 subscribers that paid for access to its content. It’s still not anywhere near the revenues that the very open and very free Guardian.co.uk makes per year (£40 million), but it seems it’s still too early to conclude whether this strategy failed or succeeded.
One very interesting theory comes from Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. In his blog entry on paywalls and online news provision, he states that in order for paywalls to be successful, “[newspapers] will require high degrees of editorial differentiation to convince people to pay for precisely your product and not simply go for the free alternative.” This means that media outlets focusing on a niche market could have a fighting chance, but that those dealing with a broader range of subjects might have difficulties.
So how will this affect you, the communicator? As mainstream media starts experimenting with business models that essentially results in a dwindling audience, you need to start thinking of other ways to reach them.
A press release that is picked up by the Times, and published, will not be read by as many people as before. That press release essentially needs a new home on the web: one that is search engine optimized and whose contents are easily shareable. Focus on finding websites with open content to publish on and investing in optimizing your own website.
7. Social media is the source
So, how are journalists handling these shifts in the media landscape? Regardless of whether a newspaper’s website has a paywall or not, the journalists involved still retain the fundamental task of finding and spreading good stories. But now, with the advent and continuous development of social media and social networks, as well as the increase in mobile Internet usage, the role of the journalist will be embedded with the community more than ever.
News outlets and journalists are using this community as the source for news. To an extent this has always been the case. But social media has made the process more efficient and immediate. Journalists act as a community manager in a world of collaborative reporting, where a merger occurs between source and content provider. They are now required to do as much listening, sharing, and commenting as everyone else in a digital community, rather than just telling that community what constitutes “news”.
They still need to wade through tons of material to find that story, but as social networks makes news more widespread, a journalistic piece is likely to be the middle of a conversation, rather than the start of one. What this means is that the original witnesses of the news, rather than the journalist, becomes the reporter.
And thus, we move to a network economy, where the network around a piece of content, rather than the content itself, is most important – and the journalists is as much a part of this network as the blogger or Twitter account that first highlighted the content.
Therefore, you have to be where the conversation takes place. As a communicator, you need to find a way to access this network where stories relevant to your company are born.
Twitter or Flicker is great place to start, as we’ve seen examples in recent history where news stories broke there first (think the plane landing in the Hudson River or the Mumbai terror attacks). Naturally, you might not have a press release as newsworthy as those two events, but these examples show how journalists find and share stories by using social media.
8. Bigger. Better. Stronger. More Social.
When you think of Social Media, most people think of Facebook. With 500 million users, they are by far the largest social network in the western world. But social media channels such as Orkut (biggest in Brazil and India) or Tencent (520 million users in China) could start claiming some of Facebook’s market share.
Facebook will continue to develop its product, adding mobile-friendly and location-based services. However, established giants in the Internet world like Apple and Google will also want in on that highly fruitful market. They will try to find a way to monetize their product while still keeping it accessible (and social) for everyone. And monetizing is the key for them. Tencent alone makes over USD 1.4 billion in virtual goods revenue – that’s people buying applications, virtual gifts, and other online widgets for use only in Tencent.
And so, as social networks increase in numbers and increase their service levels, you are challenged to think “social” for every PR or marketing activity. If you launch a new product, think of the channels and audiences you can reach immediately and effectively. It is not enough to add a link to a press release from your Facebook page. Rethink how you market your brand – what would be interesting enough for your social network to talk about and share? You’ll see that suddenly those sneak preview images you released on Flickr are now available on Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia, and maybe even Friendster or Orkut.
Social Media is dead. Long live Social Media.
You probably noticed that the majority of these trends and their effects relate to the adoption of Social Media. This is absolutely no coincidence. The proverbial media landscape considers Social Media an integral part of its existence. But as these forms of digital media move from early adopters to the mainstream, as it has in 2010, another paradigm shift has to occur.
The concept of Social Media, Social Networks, or the Social Web must stop being relevant and die out. We don’t mean that it should cease to exist. We are suggesting that the word “social” be dropped and that this concept become a given when talking about digital media. Why? Simply because people are inherently social, so the media they crave will appeal to this need, rendering one-way online media obsolete. In 2011, let us stop talking about Social Media and start talking about people instead.