Storytelling: Media Are Looking For Smart Content

Storytelling: Media Are Looking For Smart Content
April 13, 2017

No one can argue that digital platforms have disrupted traditional media, or that media companies have had trouble adjusting to the changing landscape.


Or that mass digital distribution, the democratization of tools, including — now — VR — and falling prices are locking in these changes.


Add to this a changing demographic, heavily weighted towards youth, means there is no going back.


So where do media companies go from here?


Some facts: here is what happens on the internet every second:


  • More than 7,574 tweets go live
  • More than 775 Instagram photos get uploaded in 1 second
  • 20,000 people are on Facebook and five more open an account in one second
  • 68,829 YouTube videos play
  • 59,717 people conduct Google searches


More importantly advertisers and therefore revenue follows these stats: the majority of revenue flows to sites such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, or YouTube, rather than to traditional media, even though these sites create quality content and have been experimenting with new ways of producing content.


In other words, the content business is has been commoditized by “social” media, and the value has been transferred from niche players, agents, brokerages and to those who control the internet — even though these players provide, on the surface at least, headlines, headers and listings.


Smart content in a sea of noise


So where is the opportunity? Where does quality media go?


Even breakthrough media companies who captured and own emerging demographics cannot compete with the “digital flyer” business. However loyal their audiences and investors are, these and other media companies have to leverage the changes in technology and distribution to refocus their brands and focus on providing “smart content”.


What is “smart content”? Content that is lost in the sea of noise or what is now called “fake news”; content that provides a basis for making intelligent decisions.


Media brands are well positioned to recapture the ground they have lost. Whether they provide in depth or investigative content about how we can live a healthier life, about who we should vote for or where we should invest, or what cultural trends we should follow their habits and access can resurface what customers need.


We’re not talking about guides: we’re talking about direct aid to a user, in real time, to help solve real problems without people having to search and read and search and read irritatingly similar snippets of information. In other words: providing direct access to comprehensive and quality expertise for decision making, and once again you — traditional media is important — and back.


How can they do this? Branding is the first issue to be addressed.


For companies that crowdsource street articles as well as oversaturate channels: delivery needs to be cleaned up. The Washington Post may be leading the way in the required re-alignment in part because Amazon, now an affiliated party, continues to press forward into the listing and advertising business.


Not every media company has Amazon as a back office. But they do have a legacy of helping their “users”. And they have access to new technology.


Fine tuning a value prop in a world owned by google, facebook and amazon — or helping the user


Curation has and continues to be a necessity. Media companies have been curating for years. With recent advances in technology the process has become powerful and cost efficient similar to the way digital distribution makes it easy to reach users all around the world. The problem or enigma to solve here is how to make users or advertisers who spend more money with social media to pay for it.


The answer is simple: stop focusing on “news”, focus on providing people with solutions to problems they have. Which brings us to what is at the heart of traditional quality media: stories.


Stories are the true connectors


Stories are the heart of individuals, families, communities, and cultures; they are the heart of memories and brands, products and building lives; they connect us to a time and place, and to the future.


Everyone — knows this. But making stories actionable rather than summaries is hard. It requires editorial decision making, discipline, and the restructuring of newsroom that have been replaced by social media.


Thanks to the democratization of tools, from curation, content production and distribution, a new means, traditional media companies can developbridges between professionals and users looking for intelligent action based information.


The popularization of software tools, including gaming, the launch of Google Cardboard and the falling cost of hardware fueled by the likes of Sony have all inadvertently provided a unique opportunity for this change.


A fact: The New York Times distributed 1.3 million Google Cardboard devices through the oldest form of content distribution, the newspaper.


With Google Cardboard and Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus there is no doubt the means of creating stories has completely replaced the printing press and will further integrate and reduce the cost of producing content, or stories, just as the internet and social media have reduced the cost of distribution.


Irony: it’s ironic that the same companies who threatened traditional media by opening up international distribution are now providing them with a chance to regain their dominance.


The only question that remains is will media companies seize the opportunity and move fast enough to refocus editorial restructure their newsrooms, and provide intelligent consumers, whatever the targeted demographic, with actionable stories.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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