Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why everything you know about news is going to change/has changed

The news industry is at the brink of a major upheaval. But before we delve into the specifics, couple of simple questions –
  • How many of us actually visit the homepage of a website?
  • How many of us get news from social media properties than directly from the website?
  • How many consume news via newsletters? Do you read news more on your mobile? PC? Newspaper? – Really?
The moment you think of these questions, you realise that the manner in which news is being consumed and presented has radically changed in the past 2-3 years.
Consumption: Our window to news is from aggregators rather than actual publishers. Which means, consumption of news is moving from the global pubs like Reuters/NYT and Indian favourites, Economic Times/Mint to News In Shorts and the likes of Yahoo Digest. News aggregation is more popular because it’s concise, brief and to the point.
Presentation: Facebook and Twitter, rather uncharacteristically, are content companies even though they produce absolutely NO content. Think about it for a second. We consume more content from social media than actual websites.
 The emergence of Buzzfeed as a competitive new media ‘news’ company is testimonial to their understanding of Facebook and Twitter not as technology companies, but content behemoths.
About 4 months back the NYT tied up with Starbucks making a coffee company, a content company. The starbucks app curates quality content based on your reading patterns and behaviour allowing you to consume the best from the Times. What this means is, new platforms can now disseminate content. The real estate is elsewhere and the risks of monetisation move from the Times to Starbucks.
By opening up Facebook’s platform to different publishers, they provide users with a native experience users are so accustomed to. It’s a solid proposition when you think about it. Users are already familiar with Facebook’s presentation and weaving the best content by stitching video and images is a massive proposition for publishers, and more importantly, users.
 The medium is as important as the message, if not more important. For good or worse, ignoring the medium could be dangerous because content is not searched for, as much as discovered or recommended.
As I write this, NYT has tied-up with Google to deliver virtual reality-driven stories. The medium will triumph the message? Sure looks like it.
Some answers for the questions I posed initially -An interesting Quartz study surveying top executives was revealing. In order of preference, nearly 60% of them consumed information via Newsletters, 43% via social media and 28% via a news app. And these numbers are only going to change as app companies tinker around with push notifications, formats and presentation.The Times stated that only a third of their readers actually visit the site. This makes sense because discovery of content happens at social media platforms and newsletters.
Question is, can news be customised based on preferences and tastes? It’s certainly a space to watch out for. Can we mine data from every individual and cater to news that’s relevant to them. For example, I have a keen eye on IoT and ad tech, so can specific news be pushed to me? That’s a data analytics personalised piece I’d be interested in. Also, even the most ardent newspaper man has his/her favourite pages. The rest are avoided. What if I can offer that superior experience on mobile by collecting reading patterns and data?  
In the coming years, there’s going to be a lot of consolidation in the publishing industry. Mobile will be the key as always. But content alone will not reign supreme – the medium will have a say. A bigger say than we can possibly imagine if trends are to go by. It’s a scary thought nevertheless when social media companies resemble news companies and news companies have to toe the social media line. We live in interesting times ;)

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