Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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The future is the network

From The Sipa Online Publishing and Marketing Summit. I had meant to blog live, but the sound of my keyboard was distrubing the delegates! Anyway the first post from the event tries to summarise the excellent David Cushmans powerful insight into why media companies are struggling.

The opening keynote is from David Cushman of the which specialises in social technologies. Grounded in consumer publishing as a senior exec at Bauer he should be well placed to see the world of the new with a good understanding of the world of the old. His premise is that long tail demand may have been a disaster for traditional broad based media companies, but it creates exciting opportunities for specialists.

This is a structural change. There may be a bounce back but lets not forget this is the biggest structural change in media since the invention of the press. In the early days of the press, control of the means of production was the key to the power of information.

The future if digital is what people do together and how they self organise themelves. What used to be in the control of the publishers but is now in the control of us all.

Framentation means you can,target all the niches. but although the impact of the long tail is a disaster for traditional mass media models it is a huge opportunity for specialists. In a world where no one wants to pay for content and no one clicks on ads we have to think about media as a “social object” and this can reveal where the roi might come from. Cushman goes on to argue that everyone is apublisher now as the media world moves from the one to the many. With over 300m blogs and 50m twitter users peer to peer interaction is the most important behaviour change you can imagine.

He claims that 70% of pruchase recommendations are peer recommended which undermines the power of mass media to be influential in the purchase process. The user is the destination, not the media company. There is no point in waiting for users to come to us.

Buuilding lots of hits for the sake of it is a pointless strategy. Cushman argues that the majority is now made of people who don’t want the thing that the largest single group want – the power of the long tail. In a world where there is only “broadcast” or mass media, the audience for the broadcast is the largest group. In a social media world, the largest group is the world of one to one communciations. The implications of this are important. In the broadcast world the value was where the hits were. In the narrow cast world all the tiny niches are collectively bigger and more important and valuable than the largest of the lowest common denominator single group. Therefore, if you want to be a business of scale you must pursue the niches.

There are three key disruptions for media companies. Whow creates content? Any and everyone. Who gets to distribute the content? Any and everyone. Who controls the user experience? The user.

Cushman users a theatre analogy to make his point. In the old media world we were on the stage, broadcasting our message and the audience was looking quietly up at us and hanging on our every word. A big audience gave us scale and influence. If an adveriser wanted to speak tot he audience they would have to join us on the stage. The audience would not talk to each other. In the networked world the message from the stage doesn’t reach the audience. They are not even looking at the stage they are looking at each other and building there own networks of interest in niches and communities of purpose. They share messages anongst their groups – ther groups that they decide to belong to.

Media companies have to understand that we don’t own or contril these groups. Communication is not done to them but by them.

So what should media companies do?
Make it easy for users to connect and interact.
Encourage users to act – people who care act so find the social objects that they care about.
The actions of users attract more people by amplyfying and sustaining the converstion,.
Whatever your pay model is (eg click to buy) it has to be portable so users can take it with them into their own networks.

So finding the right social object is key. Get this right and users will care enought about it to tell their friends about it.

Cushman says we are just at the beginning of the disruption. By implication he is saying that the old broadcast model can never work in the long tail social netwrokoed world. Users aren’t look at the stage. No wonder ad click thrus are low! He concludes by reminding us that if the world outside is changing faster than the world inside, something is going to tear – and it won’t be the world outside! Almost everything you try as a mass media broadcast solution – or possibly naything you try at all will be disrupted by the network. The future isn’t digital – it is the network.

In questions, Cushman was asked what about thought about the rush to put content behind paywalls. His reply? Its insanity. Its a strategy designed to make as much money as you can from teh old model while you can. It si not a building block for the future

You can see the presentation here

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November 23, 2009 - Posted by | business media strategy | , , ,

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