How the media will rise in the face of the digital revolution

The media is passing through an awkward digital adolescence. With falling revenues and smaller newsrooms, the industry is being squeezed into an unfamiliar online space against its will. Publications with hundred-year pedigrees are having to rethink and relearn their trade from the ground up.

The industry has been in a downturn since 2007 and, while some publications have been plodding on, hemorrhaging cash and complaining, others — like The New York Times — have been actively experimenting with new business models in order to turn things around. The publication’s latest venture, producing a Spanish language version for Latin America, shows it has eyes on an expanding, global future.

I am optimistic that the industry will prevail, despite the naysayers. So how will the media continue to adapt to the digital revolution and monetize its content for the age of online sharing? And how might platforms like Facebook, Google and Apple reinvent our concept of the exclusive?

The challenges and opportunities of the digital age

Before the great digital expansion, broadcasters and publishers had a fairly captive audience.

Viewers were limited to the few television channels they had available or the newspapers they bought. Higher ratings and wider circulations meant bigger ad revenues, and distribution advantages gave the broadcaster and publisher greater power to monetize. Today, those advantages have all but vanished; consumers have free and easy access to many channels and are always just one click away from new content.

Nowadays, audiences are less likely to head directly to destination news outlets. Instead, they are discovering this content on social media — 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users say they access news on the social networks, according to the Pew Research Center. This is exposing social media users to a whole range of varied content. Not only are media outlets forced to write stories that stand out from the crowd, but they also must cater to an entirely new kind of consumer.

In response, publications and marketers are creating bite-sized, easily digestible and shareable content that comes in the form of listicles, FAQs, photo essays, video content and so on. We’re also seeing a rise in clickbait — sensationalist content that attempts to lure readers with over-the-top claims, compelling imagery and shock tactics, ultimately to sell advertising.

While the reader might enjoy the content, he or she doesn’t value that which lacks substance. Nevertheless, this type of content won’t disappear; it is perhaps not unlike poor-quality tabloids versus quality broadsheets in the old days. It falls into the category of the ephemeral and of mindless fun — something that has always been popular.

However, I am optimistic that these changes will bring about an evolution of the industry, rather than its demise. The fact is, there are advantages to the new, digital world.

For one, broadcasters and publishers now have a far cheaper distribution system. When I first began distributing television content and newspapers in 1985, distribution costs could reach a staggering 25 percent. Trying to reach an audience of over one billion — as several YouTube videos have now done — would have been unthinkable.

Of course, consumers can click away from your content, but they also come to your product in the same way. As The New York Times has realized with its new foreign language ventures, the audience is no longer trapped in a demographic or geographical bubble — it can be global. Viewers, readers and consumers can now access online content from anywhere, at any time. These advantages will start accumulating and will become more advantageous as time goes by.

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Originally posted by at TechCrunch
28th July 2016