Digital and Social; The Changing Media Landscape

Over the past few years there has been a dynamic landscape shift in the way media disseminates information, news in particular. Some popular formats have wrapped their production, newspapers have exhausted their inks, and new formats crowd our newsfeed. And a catalyst for such a dynamic shift is the way people consume news and information today. As per Pew Research Center, 91% of adults in America use a device. The same researcher offers another statistic showing the rise in social networking usage amongst users from 2005 – 2012! And this isn’t a figure that has gone unnoticed by news producers!   

In the past one-year venture capitalists have contributed at least $300m to digital news organisations. With people on the go, the need to have news on one’s fingertips is affecting the news industry and how! When something like PolicyMic gets users’ clicks and investors’ pick, it means that news is indeed becoming a niche-bracketed product.  Given the exploding array of social media channels, there is an entire generation of news consumers who prefer Prismatic, Flipboard, Zite Pulse, Buzzfeed and  Twitter for their source of news.

Five years back Al Jazeera tasted the power of social media in news when the channel spotted the online conversations of people. The channel set up a Twitter handle by the name of @AJGaza tweeting the ground report during the Gaza War in 2008/2009.  Using its existing lead of journalists and citizens feeding information for the broadcast, Al Jazeera news ‘live-tweeted’ the war from its newsrooms. A year later in the historical Iraq elections in 2010, Al Jazeera partnered with YouTube to gather Voices from Iraq through a series of Flipcams distributed through the country. Community fed stories and citizen journalists is making it easier for consumers to generate news. Four years later, social media within the news framework is here to stay. Take Vox Media for example. Sharp, pointed and attractive Vox.com’s news stories are packaged for the youth of today.

A couple of months back, Facebook launched FB Newswire, a resource for journalists that aggregates newsworthy social content across the site and puts it together. Facebook wants to be your digital newspaper and it is making itself clear in as many ways. In a strategic partnership with news agency Storyful, the intention is to find the most popular breaking news stories on Facebook.

A move as such clearly sets up Facebook in a combative competitive mode with Twitter that has a clear lead when it comes to breaking news. Off late, Facebook has been trying to keep pace with the news space by allowing embedded posts and then introducing the trending topics earlier this year. These moves have obviously benefitted Facebook by increasing the traffic to news and publishing sites.

So where does this landscape shift leave marketers?

Today a marketer may choose to skip the existing media vehicles of television and radio spots, advertising space and billboards very easily. A brand may choose to publish its periodical or newsletter and make it accessible to its consumers. A brand may also choose to share it online through its existing website and social media channels, giving its consumers the ease of sharing, commenting and generating conversations. The dynamics of digital consumption is never constant, purely because consumers choose multiple vehicles for news and information. Therefore the onus clearly rests on the marketer to keep a tab on where his consumer is going.

The consumer is omnipresent: According to a report, there are 256 million US users on TV, 243 million on radio, 232 million on the Internet, 182 million are connected at home via broadband, 177 million connected at home via wi-fi and 139 million smartphone users. The numbers may not be very different for India. In the space of multi-media consumption a marketer has to make an informed decision on how to communicate through these platforms. Smart, crisp, creative and visual content makes for engagement.

Make a SmartPhone Move: The influx of smartphones in our lives has made the mobile phone the most prominent channel for commercial transactions. A research by eMarketer shows the amount of time users spend on a smart phone is growing by 14 times the rate of desktop users. Creating apps that make content creation and sharing easy, and a definitive mobile marketing strategy is the go-to recipe for success.

Keep a tab on Facebook: Hashtags, finding fans in your geographical area, find people to like and share your page on profiles, pages and groups – Facebook marketing is the gen next destination for all marketing initiatives. About 62% users notice branded content on their Facebook feed.

Don’t Ignore Twitter: Though Facebook is on top of the social media ladder, Twitter with its lead with hashtags is a better platform to generate content that generates conversations and has the power of going viral. Twitter also the advantage of being on other multi-media platforms thus reaching out to non-Twitter users.

Content is still the King: No matter what, no marketer can overlook publishing. Because content is what the consumer is looking for, in some cases it is the product in itself! The focus on content marketing instead of traditional advertising creates a dynamic relationship between the brand and its consumers.

Consumption of content has generated new business models. LinkedIn is a critical example of how a professional social network is looking at itself as content generator today. Until sometime back LinkedIn had a curious problem that though it had more than 300 million users, only a small percentage use the site every month. Despite sign ups, connections and endorsements, there was nothing that pulled a non-job-seeker to LinkedIn. There was no daily use case for LinkedIn. That is when the site decided to position itself as a content platform.

If you are in the business marketing, it is time you re write the media part your marketing strategy. If you know how this media fragmentation works and how to engage with consumers across multiple channels and devices, you’ll maximize value for your brand.

A good starting point is your brand website.

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