Is Media Dying?

There are numerous arguments for the propostion that media is dying. I’ll examine a few especially in light of the development of new platforms for engagement, the prevailing changes in society and the way these shape our media consumption habits.

I don’t think media is dying despite arguments to the contrary. Neither do I think there are villains making landgrabs – people or organisations under threat will always paint the source of the threat as villainry before they realise it’s virtues. There is a revolution taking place in the way we consume media and relate to it.  I posit some ways forward below.

Apple’s 30% revenue demands have already been deemed “economically untenable” by some publishers following the launch of its iTunes subscription service. In summary Apple says the new payment option will make it easier for consumers to sign up for, or renew, their subscriptions as they no longer have to visit external websites, so increasing developers’ and publishers’ revenue. The move also means that content providers (including publishers, video and music providers) could lose up to 30% of their direct revenues to Apple.

News Corp’s, The Daily, was the first publication to sign up to the service. Hachette Filipacchi Media says Elle will also start using Apple’s subscription options. Print publishers wishing to monetise digital content might well benefit from the ease of use which Apple’s subscription system provides. Yet Apple’s system, which provides consumers an option to provide publishers with their name, email address and post code, will not actually pass this valuable information to publishers . . . putting paid to publishers’ marketing efforts (see my earlier post on digital marketing) and leaving Apple holding all the cards.

Into the fray wades Google, with it’s announcement of the launch of Google One Pass.   In summary, Google claim this:

  • “Lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their digital content” – no 30 percent commission?
  • “[Allows] Publishers [to] maintain direct relationships with their customers” – publishers get customer data and concommitant marketing wins
  • “. . . lets publishers give existing print subscribers free (or discounted) access to digital content” – mobile editions don’t have to price-match
  • “[Enables] Readers who purchase from a One Pass publisher can access their content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-on with an email and password” – unites web and device subcriptions
  • “[Empowers] Users [who] only need one login to access news anywhere” –  single sign-on to any content on any device, anywhere . . .

Quibbles by publishers about either Apple or Google aside, the problem goes deeper. Consuming news remains laborious.

Media consumption involves a time and space commitment, whatever your age or situation. Yet, long-form content which deploys minimal information-imparting mechanics or is siloed remains the template for most types of publishing.

The problem seems to be a reluctance to change. There are few, if any, Quick Response codes so I can get updates on a news story or automatically share these with my network.

Augmented reality markers with links remain elusive, preventing me from taking the printed page further. Serve the reader not the business model.

Create a relationship. Apps which gives me news or singular content are not enough. Let’s have an app that is an alarm clock to wake me, which then serves up a ‘newspaper’  relevant to me and my interests, will work on the underground or places with limited or no reception . . . add a shopping list of things I need to buy when I’m around town and then serve up discount codes targeted to that list while I’m at it before helping me end the day with suggestions for eating out or socialising.

Put another way, if my media was a life resource, I couldn’t live without it.

Do paywalls and single-source apps spell success? Right now, the data is not looking good for most publications. Take up might, initally, be large but there is significant drop-off over time and revenues are pitiful, if they transpire at all. Why do you think so many apps are free? Many are too singular to be worth paying for; free availability enhances take-up; ‘free’ becomes a restrictive model . . . just how much further can you develop from ‘free’ with costs outweighing returns?

Monetising all this plays a part, a huge part. Ad funded models for content and apps have been with us for some time and will need to develop further. In the digital space the revenues, though welcome, have rarely exceeded those from existing offline models . . . yet.

Finally, to answer the question . . . is media dying? No, but it is evolving. This evolution, in my view, must combine the best of what there already is with the best of that to come in order to survive.

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