2012 Journalism: News gathering in the age of the connected consumer
Now that the audience is becoming a superuser of media, how should media organisations respond? IBM's Martin Guillaume and media strategy consultant David Brewer (Media Ideas International) share their thoughts on the implications for publishers and broadcasters and suggest ways that content producers might respond to this changing audience behaviour.
The evolution of journalism in the era of the connected and empowered audience
The era of the connected consumer is forcing many media organisations to rethink not only how they operate but why they exist. The audience, once a passive consumer of content, is increasingly becoming the content producer, curator, global publisher and broadcaster in its own right. With so many distractions for the attention of the audience, the challenge for mainstream media is to figure out where they fit in to this changing media landscape. They need to do so in a way that makes sense to them and the audience. At the same time they must future-proof their businesses to ensure they remain relevant and survive. The good news is that the tools are there to provide the solutions required. Martin Guillaume (IBM) and David Brewer (Media Ideas International) share their thinking on the evolution of journalism in the era of the connected and empowered consumer.
The new superusers
When publishing and broadcasting was just about printing newspapers and magazines and producing television and radio programmes, the publishers and broadcasters were the superusers. They had control of the tools and the publication schedules.
Now, social media tools are offering the audience choice and empowering them to the extent that they are now the superusers. The power balance has shifted and the significance offers exciting challenges to media organisations worldwide.
The audience has moved to a different place
Many of these audience superusers are now using the content produced by news providers in ways that publishers and broadcasters never imagined, or intended. Thanks to content curation publishing tools that enable the audience to embed content assets that mean something to them and their peer group, these consumers of information are reworking content, adding value, enhancing and enriching it, and sharing it in a form that is more relevant to their peer group – and delivered to the devices their peer group use. This changing audience behaviour is outside of the scope of traditional, legacy media business models. News organisations can choose to ignore this fact and carry on as they are, or they can welcome and embrace this changing behaviour in order to rework their news production in a way that assists the audience and maximises the impact of the content produced. Never before has such immediate audience feedback and monitoring been available to the media. News organisations around the world must watch and map this behaviour to remain relevant.
The sobering reality
The relationship between media organisations and the audience is changing fast and it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep up. Intel Corp. has just released data (link resides outside of ibm.com) setting out what takes place in an internet minute. Two statistics stand out. In one minute there are 1.3 million YouTube videos viewed and 6M Facebook pages viewed. At the same time, a survey by Innerscope for Time Warner revealed that young consumers in their 20s switch media 27 times per non-working hour, which is the equivalent of more than 13 times during a standard half-hour TV show (link resides outside of ibm.com). And Elon University along with Pew Internet Research has just released data (link resides outside of ibm.com) about ‘The Attention Deficit Generation” which talks about a growing audience with “a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience and a lack of deep-thinking ability due to fast-twitch wiring.” On the positive side, the same research concludes that this audience is also “nimble, quick-acting multitaskers, who see the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders". The question is whether media businesses and those who provide the technical solutions are geared up for this and are together addressing this changing audience make-up and behaviour? If not they should be.
Multi-platform authoring is essential not optional
For publishers and broadcasters to remain relevant it’s important that they deliver their content to whatever devices users turn to in order to consume news and information. If there is a platform that a media organisation is not delivering to there will be an audience they are failing to reach. With a database driven, converged/integrated news operation, workflows and technical processes can be adjust in order to be able to switch production effort to the outlet that is attracting most use and generating most revenue. This means ditching legacy production methods, making some hard choices about what content to focus on, and introducing more dynamic resource allocation systems to ensure that production is focused on real demand. It also means a change in media management thinking.
A boost for high-quality, original journalism
Technological advances and changing audience behaviour can be liberating for journalism. The audience is more likely to share and recommend original, high-quality content that is saying something new, has a clear differential and will be meaningful to its peer group. This means journalists can return to what they do best, which is uncovering facts that had it not been for them the world would never have known and presenting those facts in an easily digestible and shareable format. The only way of doing this across all the devices/platforms used by the audience is to create converged fact factories delivering to multiple platforms.
Allow technology to free resources to enrich your journalism
Knowledge representation is key to analysis; 90% of the world’s data is less than 24 months old and 80% of it is unstructured. Making sense of it all requires more than tagging and classification. New, knowledge-centric representations of information can derive insights quickly. News organisations need to capitalise on this opportunity to restore depth to news.
Track stories, as they break and propagate
For the first time, audience opinions can be fully represented in real time without sampling. Instrumented, interconnected and intelligent devices have given audiences an incredibly effective mouthpiece. The empowerment these devices have offered has proven to be remarkably influential in key world events such as the Arab spring. The magnitude and depth of sentiment is a disconcertingly accurate indicator of the popular sentiment.
Let technology do the legwork – so journalists can focus on the analysis
Consumers are offered experiences across devices and are multitasking; more than 67% of viewers use another device while watching television. Almost 30% of the viewers in the United States get their news from mobile devices. “Apps” are a logical and powerful extension of brands, especially digital brands online: For the BBC it’s “BBC news and iPlayer”, for Sky it’s “SkyGo”. Consumers can now choose to interact more readily and become “part of the action” by re-tweeting, commenting and sharing the news. These constitute complementary experiences to the TV experience, not a substitution. Protection of traditional channels is not a viable option. Neither is a sole reliance on the new ones. Consumers expect intelligent extensions which capitalise on their technological environment.
Make news easy and intuitive, logical and useful, interactive and immersive – audiences expect it.
Combine consumer devices to make an experience more immersive
Because of this newfound dialogue, tracking story flow offers insights like never before. As contributors and consumers of news, audiences have become part of the action. Tracking how stories are received, propagated and shared is now possible in real time. Other key questions can be answered too such as where does news start? Some types of events are increasingly easy to map and track through social media for example Arab Spring. Story velocity and contributory components can be measured to assess how events are interpreted, picked-up and disseminated as an intrinsic part of the story itself. Tools are there to capture this intelligence and visualise it. However, many news organisations have not yet adapted to the full power of the tools at their disposal.
From bloggers to broadcasters
Free tools are now enabling informed bloggers and social networkers to become global publishers and broadcasters. Many of these are gaining a loyal audience, particularly those operating in territories where the mainstream media has become complacent. With multiple demands for the attention of the audience (and their growing attention deficit) mainstream media is in trouble. Technology is adept at taking the tedious tasks away in order to let the tools do the work. Increasingly, the innovative use of the technology available can be a source of a media organisation’s differentiation. Whether it is for news distribution across devices, semantic analysis or matching audiences with relevant topics, technology matters more than ever.
Technology exists to automate many of the routine journalistic tasks freeing journalists to focus on their real job which is producing original journalism and offering insights and creating an editorial differential.