Wednesday 28 September 2016

Snacking on Social Media Bytes

This post was originally published by the Melbourne-based Herald Sun, a highly circulated daily newspaper in Australia.

Increasingly, we are all becoming acutely aware of the food we eat – and we are changing our diets accordingly. Much the same, many of us are also thinking about how much petrol we consume. And this is influencing not only what kind of cars we buy, but how we drive them.

Now, some are saying we need to adopt a similar conscious approach to how we consume media.

The Information Diet

Clay Johnson is one such pundit. In his new book, The Information Diet, Johnson advocates actually creating a schedule for when we consume media. This, he offers, helps us “maintain a healthier relationship with information”.

While I applaud Johnson’s intent, I don’t necessarily agree you will need to make a conscious effort to change how you consume media.

The future of journalism means news will increasingly be crafted for one of two different modes of consumption: news that finds you versus news that you find.

Over time it will become easier to understand the difference and we’ll adapt our attention and consumption habits accordingly.

Building the Social Link to the Audience

News that finds us will reach us through social networks. This news will more likely be the kind we would find in, say, The Sun or USA Today, rather than the kind that would be found in The Guardian or The Washington Post.

It will be carefully crafted by media companies to trigger an emotional reaction, making us want to share or reshare it. (After all, no one wants to be the last guy or gal to share what everyone else is talking about.)

This info could come from any source.

Already you see media companies orienting themselves this way, building a deep social link, with us, their audiences. And this is helping their content circulate far and wide.

Irresistible Sharing

Mashable is one such example. The editorial team at the popular US technology site, I learned during my visit there, is as adept in journalism as it is in creating community around it. Its content is not only informative, it’s irresistible to share.

Buzzfeed is another example. The site – originally a video Zeitgeist for our digital culture – is moving into political, technology and women’s news verticals. By tapping into our emotional core, they make their content more shareable.

Media Hunting

Then there’s news that you seek out. This content will be consumed directly from big media sources that sync with your world view. These can be delivered via the web but more and more they will be consumed through what Forrester chief executive George Colony calls the “app internet”. Some of it will need to be paid for, requiring a digital pass.

HBO in the United States is the perfect example. It’s been long positioned as a premium content brand. And millions pay for it. There’s no reason why this same model can’t work in the news business. However, it will take time for media companies to persuade us their content is worth paying for.

They would need to look at investing in innovation for delivering more value-added services to supplement what they already do well – such as international news.

Tablets are where this will happen. The race is on for big media companies to innovate and build their brands to impress and engage a captive audience.

As this dynamic takes hold – and it’s starting already – it will be easier for you to decide how to consume media based on time and context.

Soon we will have a diet of media snacks and meals in fine restaurants. Snacks being the news that we receive through our social networks.

Something Worth Paying For

On the other hand, tablet media apps, which we spend time with, are much like a meal at a fine restaurant: something worth paying for. (Some media companies will blend the two.)

Over time we won’t even need to think about this. Our consumption and diet will be second nature – we’ll know where to look for what we want. And that’s good news for all – least of which, the future of the news biz.

Image credit: NS Newsflash

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