Below is a chapter from The New Media Cocktail e-book I released last week. Over the course of this holiday week, I will be releasing excerpts of that e-book on this blog. Feel free to download the e-book in its entirety, if you prefer. This first chapter was based on a recent blog post so it may look familiar to regular readers. A few modifications have been made, but the gist is the same.
It’s not your father’s media anymore. Technology and information choices are radically altering the landscape and existing and future media must adapt and innovate to thrive. What follows are ten key principles that will shape the next generation media environment and set the table where the New Media Cocktail will be stirred.
Media convergence has arrived. Newspapers are producing audio and video. TV and radio are producing print copy. Media outlets no longer find themselves constrained to one specific medium. Technology permits all media outlets to compete on each other’s turf.
It used to be that print reporters would see stories dropped because there weren’t enough available column inches to print the article. TV and radio journalists would get squeezed out because an hour only has 60 minutes no matter how you slice it. Today, the web enables all media to publish and produce unlimited content. This is a blessing and curse because it means a lot more high quality material makes it into the public arena, but it is harder to kill low-quality stuff without telling the journalist that directly.
When breaking news hits, the audience now contributes. Media outlets openly solicit still and video footage from cell phones or other portable devices for disasters and tragedies. Remember the student whose cell phone video footage made it on CNN in a seemingly endless loop after the Virginia Tech shooting? Local stations do the same thing for pictures of floods and other natural disasters. Even the print media has gotten into this game.
The rise of blogs, podcasts, and online video now mean that media outlets are competing with their own audiences. Anybody can create a podcast that competes with NPR, a blog that competes with the Washington Post, or a video site that competes with CNN. Everyone can be a broadcaster and publisher, at low cost and with minimal effort.
You can’t put a 30-second pre-roll ad on every two-minute news story. Nobody sticks around to watch post-roll. Podcasts aren’t radio, so the same ad structure doesn’t work. Full-page display advertising? Not on a newspaper website! And classified advertising hasn’t simply migrated to the web, the whole nature of it has changed. Where’s the line between classifieds and eBay auctions? Between Craigslist and a yard sale? Similarly, despite ESPN’s efforts, ISPs aren’t typically going to pay to carry content. And subscription revenue models will need to be revamped to recognize the shifting landscape.
In the old days, the only people who cared about newspaper morgues and tape libraries were researchers, librarians, and other hard-core information professionals. Today, search engines can help open these archives up to a public hungry for information. Looking at old articles no longer requires microfiche or a subscription to a legacy research service. Digging up old video doesn’t need to involve a call to a service that fetches a dusty videotape and copies it. Archives can be a source for ongoing traffic — and thus revenue — to media outlets.
The old media paradigm precluded effective niche publications. A truly focused niche would likely have too few potential subscribers to justify a magazine. Certainly a radio or TV show would be unlikely to be devoted to these niches. But highly-targeted niches have real value for audiences, content creators, and marketers and can be exploited effectively in the new media world. Consumers increasingly want to see just the slice of information they’re interested in. Generic national, international, business, and entertainment news increasingly becomes a boring commodity.
Stories are going online in print, audio, or video with less and less editing. As news cycles disappear and are replaced by the world of instant information, credible journalists are posting to blogs and producing audio and video so quickly that editing would be impractical. Content producers must therefore trust their content creators to make sound editorial judgment by themselves on the fly.
In the Edward R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite/David Brinkley era, news cycles lasted 24 hours until the next nightly newscast came on the air. Twenty-four hour cable news networks began to shrink the news cycle and Web 1.0 brought it down to mere hours. Today, the news cycle is dead. Information transmits instantaneously and responses often come before the news is completely made. In politics, a presidential debate doesn’t even conclude anymore before detailed responses, rebuttals, attacks, and supplemental information has been made public. The “official” pundits have yet to offer their views on TV before the new media space has rendered judgment of their own.
For those who thought that cable television ushered in an age of too many choices for consumers, welcome to the Media 2.0 world. There are now more information choices than there are products in a Wal-Mart Supercenter. (A Supercenter has about 116,000 different products on sale.) Even someone interested in a niche as focused as bacon can find 1,050 blogs tagged for that subject, according to Technorati’s directory. (I’m sure that list has a lot of fat in it, but there’s lots of meat as well — OK, I couldn’t help myself.)
Download The New Media Cocktail e-book in its entirety.