The New Media Cocktail: Chapter 2 – Convergence of Text, Audio, and Video
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.
The web has already begun to break down the barriers erected by previous communication media. In the age of newspapers, television, and radio, each was limited by technology to communicate in a single manner with an audience. Today, the Internet enables content producers to combine the various media into one powerful communications platform.
The line between newspapers and TV blurs more every day. Heck, we may as well include radio in the mix. The new media universe on the web allows all forms of old media to encroach on each other’s territory. The Wall Street Journal and other papers provide audio and video coverage on their websites (like Walt Mossberg’s column, for example). MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, and the other networks all provide text coverage on their web sites. And radio stations provide text as well, while the others offer podcasts or other audio-only content.
Recognizing this, Mark Cuban calls for old school media to acknowledge reality and seek out more formal convergence.
Riddle me this Batman: Rupert Murdoch has figured out that Print and TV can be combined to be a vertical news organization and is willing to pay 5 billion dollars to do it. Why has no one else realized the value of combining big news brands and organizations ?
Why isn’t a CBS News merging their news department with a NY Times and rebranding itself as the 6pm NY Times News ? Or with Time Magazine News ? Or NBC News and ???
Mini Media Mavens already realize this convergence is occurring and they’re taking advantage of it. Think of all the podcasters and vidcasters who also blog. The likes of Robert Scoble, Jeff Jarvis, Mike Arrington, and others are establishing their own media empires that blend text, audio, and video into a cohesive platform.
Old media is doing so, but slowly and reluctantly. Cuban’s suggestion has been adopted in small measure by traditional players, but slowly with more of a “dip the toe in the water” feel. Newspapers, for instance, have arrangements with TV where they contribute content. The Boston Globe, for example, co-brands some shows on the New England Sports Network and supplies reporters as on-air personalities. Similarly, the Washington Post and MSNBC have an arrangement where the Post contributes to the network and its website.
Mark’s thoughts come at the same time as the blogosphere is abuzz about the significant layoffs at the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s not at all clear that convergence would help here (from afar it feels like bad business decisions got it to the point it is at), but it underscores the ongoing difficulties as traditional media try to evolve and adjust to the new media world.
Cynthia Brumfield at IP & Democracy thinks that newspapers should take their cues from the likes of those I noted above and argues:
in these days when Om Malik, Rafat Ali and Mike Arrington can whip up profitable web-based publishing empires seemingly overnight (not really overnight in the case of Om and Rafat), why can’t newspapers do the same thing? Or at least try to leverage the journalistic talent already on the payroll to forge new territories instead of letting that talent go?
If big traditional media outlets on television, radio, and in print were to take these lessons to heart, they would be able to evolve more rapidly. More importantly, however, they must learn not simply to follow the lead of the Mini Media Mavens, but to find ways to innovate on their own in order to return to the leadership spots they once held on the American media landscape.
Letting the User Choose
Among the “old media” some have begun to show an understanding for this new reality. For instance, ABCnews.com starts to demonstrate what is already happening in their recently re-launched web site. The front page includes a list of headlines with markers indicating the variety of content available for each story. Depending on timeliness and availability of alternate media formats, the user can select how to consume the information. But there’s more to it than that.
The audience should have consumption choices, but part of it should be an editorial decision on how best to communicate information. The web enables content producers to make choices that were previously unavailable. The fact that column inches and broadcast minutes have effectively become unlimited in the online environment permits publishing lengthy original source documents, unedited or lightly edited interviews, and other forms of information that consumers may find valuable but which previously were impractical to share. But even so-called “bite size content” can come in the form that makes the most sense.
The Right Medium for the Message
Take, for example, Walt Mossberg’s weekly technology column in the Wall Street Journal. He frequently reviews gadgets for the newspaper. And while his text is compelling and informative, he also produces a brief video published on the Journal’s web site that does a much better job in conveying his points about the hardware or software he is reviewing. By combining his spoken word with the visual imagery, the audience has a much better understanding of the product and its plusses and minuses.
And that’s the future of online media: applying the correct medium for the message being conveyed. Artificial silos make no sense in a world where intelligent choices can be made. Even today there are blogs and webcasts that persist in the notion that they must be one or the other (including my own blog and podcast in some circumstances). In the future, smart content producers will take advantage of convergence even on the individual level to offer consumers a richer, more powerful, and more informative experience.
Making the Medium Choice
Marketer Mitch Joel talked earlier this year on his podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, about the difference between audio and video podcasts. Shortly thereafter, I heard John Furrier of PodTech talking about the same topic on a podcast with Heather Green of BusinessWeek.
In a blog post, I examined the question of how to choose the correct medium for the message. What follo
ws is an updated excerpt o
f that post.
Relative Value. John Furrier made an interesting point when he said that he felt that there was a difference in the viral nature of various forms of social media vs. their engagement level. He said that video and blogs are more viral than podcasts, but that podcasts result in higher engagement than blogs and video has higher engagement than either. On the other hand, blogs are best at SEO (search engine optimization) value.
Web video has the potential to be more mainstream than podcasts and potentially even blogs, and numerous recent projects back this up. Consumers will be more willing to embrace this medium than the other two because it has a greater potential to be fun and engaging. Podcasts are likely to remain more of a niche tool — though a valuable one because of their power to connect with an influential audience. And blogs will continue to gain traction, though they lack some of the entertainment potential of video.
Format Differences. Mitch Joel and others have pointed out that it is much harder to watch video than listen to a podcast. The number of opportunities to watch are smaller than the number to listen. In addition, video and blogs require greater attention from the audience, in most cases, whereas podcasts are more passive and support other simultaneous activity by the listener.
This suggests that podcasts can be longer than video and blogs must be kept relatively brief. To overcome those time/length limitations, they would need to be truly exceptional — even indispensable — content.
Monetization Potential. Furrier thought that podcasts would be the most difficult to monetize, with video being easier because advertisers like to be able to show their products. It is an argument that makes sense, though monetizing video still hasn’t proven to be a wildly successful endeavor, but that day is coming. Blogs have certainly demonstrated some ability to be monetized and that trend will likely continue.
Conclusion. Different forms of media serve different purposes. Content creators should make sure that they deploy the correct medium for the goal they wish to achieve.
Download The New Media Cocktail e-book in its entirety.