By Marcia Forbes, PhD
Media Everywhere – So What?
I recently presented at a leadership conference which sought to get a glimpse of the future by examining today’s trends. The following are excerpts from that presentation which looked at media changes and potential opportunities.
From Analogue to Digital
In the ancient days of the 1990s everything was analogue. Many of us did not even know the word ‘digital’. When I left TVJ in 2003, the word ‘digital’ was known but uttered with great fear by media practioners. Digital meant competition, and perhaps even the death of traditional media.
At that time the Broadcasting Commission was taking about Jamaican radio and TV stations, the electronic media, making the transition to digital by 2015. We all shuddered at the related expenses and even now in 2014, with digital transition pushed back to about 2020, traditional media are still shuddering.
Working toward my 2012 book, STREAMING: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles, took me fully into the digital domain. Playing the role of participant observer, I immersed in life online via digital ethnography. I lived on Twitter and actively engaged with a virtual community on a daily basis.
That process, combined with traditional data-gathering approaches, revealed how new digital technologies were transforming the meaning of media, transforming media processes, transforming media audiences and transforming media models.
Digital ethnography made me begin to question what we mean when we say ‘TV’, ‘radio’ or ‘newspaper’. What do we mean when we say ‘media’ and what do we mean when we talk about having an ‘audience’?
What are Media?
My life online made it clear that these words and the images we invoke when we use them are all in transition. The business models designed for old media have been entirely disrupted by the Internet and new communication technologies, so too have media processes such as content creation, delivery/distribution and even consumption. Binge watching is a new thing.
Disruptive Technologies are transforming our definition of words and concepts, transforming our lifestyles, the way we do business, how we make money and even what we call money. By this time we all are likely to have heard of Bitcoin.
But even if digital technologies now allow us to have media everywhere, via a variety of devices, ‘So What?’. It is the ‘so what’ of these technologies that are really interesting to us as media workers, marketers and planners.
What do we make of media everywhere and how do we cash in on opportunities? I’ll mention four (4) Disruptive Technologies that have changed and will continue to change media.
These technologies will not disappear, they will evolve and become even more deeply embedded in our lives, to the point where they become taken for granted by us just like the air we breathe.
For me, these four digital technologies, the Internet, Social Media (especially social networks), Mobile Communication Devices (Smartphones, Tablets, Phablets) and Mobile Apps, especially when these technologies are combined, represent the real New Media. They offer new ways of communicating to large numbers of persons, what we call ‘the masses’ or ‘audiences’.
Through these new communication technologies, connected customers are given opportunities for content on-demand, anywhere and anytime. Connected customers can engage in interactive feedback and creative participation. These digital technologies allow user engagement and involvement
Erosion of Traditional Gate-Keepers of News
The ‘So What’ about the Internet is its unlocking of news and information, with erosion of the role of traditional media as gatekeepers and agenda-setters.
Bloggers, Vloggers (video logs), Tweeters, Facebookers, Instagrammers, YouTubers, Citizen Journalists via ezines and websites are increasingly the ones who set the media agenda. They drive stories to mainstream media. Traditional Radio and TV no longer break news. That happens via Twitter.
New Approach to Service
To remain relevant, traditional media must embrace new media and use them to drive audiences to their traditional media houses, even as they strengthen their online platforms and offerings for the day when traditional media are no more.
Every traditional media entity must have an interactive website, and accounts via the relevant social networks so as to even pique the interest of youth audiences. Currently these networks are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Media houses need to repackage/repurpose their content and place them online for wider listenership/viewership/readership. A media house that is not visible online is likely to eventually be bypassed.
Audiences are no longer ‘passive’, if they were ever that. They are actively engaged in content consumption with many also adding their input to its creation. Social TV is a growing trend.
As technologies evolve so too do our expectations, our taste and our tolerance levels as viewers/listeners/readers toward media houses that fail to meet our expectations.
Many of us will long remember the cussing meted out to Television Jamaica when it bought exclusive rights to The Voice with Tessanne and initially seems not to plan to show it live. Viewer outrage quickly brought the station in live. ‘Go Live or Go Home’ became the Twitter war-cry against the station.
The Internet has waged war on the business models of traditional media, a model that is largely based on spot advertisements. And even those who fight back via digital platforms realize that these platforms simply do not (as yet) generate the type of money that they are accustomed to.
The Internet has facilitated a new type of media, a digital media, one that exists in the virtual world and can be independent of buildings like radio and TV stations and printing presses.
Access to high-speed Internet and a couple computers can immediately provide one with the capacity to publish. Traditional media are sometimes not even aware of who their competitors really are.
The Internet has lowered barriers to entry for those who want to set up as media houses. While we are not ignorant of the ways in which big money is capturing the Internet or of the arguments over net neutrality, we are nevertheless aware of the democratization of media and the increase in the variety of voices as a result of the Internet.
1) Media Houses, Marketers and Advertisers MUST follow their audiences/consumers. The latter are moving online. Go there with them!
2) Audiences want more. Audiences expect more. Audiences are now becoming accustomed to getting more. This will not change. Give audiences more by way of interactive feedback.
3) The future is about the connected economy where engagement and collaboration are re rigueur. Get connected and encourage collab.
4) The future is about understanding behaviour. Social listening is one way of getting to understand audience/consumer behaviours. Engage in this.
5) The future is about monitoring and measuring. New media are especially good at this so use the analytics.
6) Trends that will grow:
- Media everywhere via even more devices, creating more opportunities for existing as well as new content creators;
- Changes in Audience Engagement for example Social TV and Binge Viewing;
- Social Listening – Companies monitoring social networks to see how their brands are being talked about and to garner other types of information;
- LIVE Streaming Online;
- The creation of Mobile Apps;
- Be prepared for The Internet of Things;
- Media that exist only in the ‘real world’ with no online or cloud presence will become extinct;
The definition of ‘media’ may be quite something else in the future. Media will continue to evolve and change so get used to it
Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Caribbean Institute of Media & Communication, University of the West Indies, Mona. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.
Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes