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Navigating the new abnormal
Not so long ago, the formula for selling newspapers was pretty straight-forward: cover the story, get the copy, ensure you have your ads and sell like if your byline depended on it.
How times have changed.
Modern technology has changed the rules and revolutionised how news is covered, consumed and disseminated. Not only is the formula changing but the model for survival is no longer a cookie-cutter approach. What will happen pivots in part on whether the news industry can move into the more lucrative areas of digital advertising, particularly using consumer data to target ads, persuading major legacy advertisers to also advertise online and moving into new revenue streams.
At last year’s business media luncheon, we focused on the Rise of Digital Media and its Impact on Mainstream Journalism which gave an insight into how quickly the digital media landscape is changing.
This year, Rethinking Media Business Models: Navigating the New Abnormal is appropriate because there is nothing normal about today’s news landscape. You have citizens taking to social media to cover the news themselves, fake news, declining revenues, reduced staff, on-line news and mobile streams competing with traditional media. It’s a minefield to navigate.
A study of advertising in US news by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that, currently, even the top news websites in the US have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online.
The digital advertising they do get appears to be standard ads that are available across many websites. And with only a handful of exceptions, the ads on news sites tend not to be targeted based on the interests of users, the strategy that many experts consider key to the future of digital revenue.
Overall, the analysis finds that while news organisations have tried to persuade their advertisers to buy space across multiple platforms, there was little evidence that they had succeeded. The kinds of products and services being advertised online were quite different from legacy platforms. So where does that leave us?
The fact is media houses are grappling with the reality that they either adapt, evolve or face extinction. One thing is certain, there is no magic digital carpet to ride.
Like it or not, digital and social media transformed the way journalists work.
There is no denying the speed, immediacy, consumption and audience reach which digital and social media are driving. But the idea that traditional newspapers or the traditional mission of newspapers is becoming archaic is incorrect.
What does all this mean for our mainstream media? You still need to manage costs, grow revenue and profits, and deliver and package content that keeps your audience engaged. And all this while maintaining your credibility.
Never before in human history has so much information been available to so many people, so quickly.
People crave information, it is human nature and our democracy thrives on it. But it’s fair to ask what kind of information. What role will media play in its dissemination? Can legacy media adapt so that legacy doesn’t come to mean extinct?
Chief customer relationship officer,
Unit Trust Corporation
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