THE old-media world of newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television networks has a daunting task ahead of it. New-media upstarts like internet TV, social networking, mash-ups, web stores and online gaming—with their ability to stream content direct to smart phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and game consoles—have begun to eat the green-eyeshade brigade’s breakfast, lunch and tea. At last week’s Digital Hollywood meeting in Santa Monica, California, the question on a lot of people’s lips was how to fight back.
A recurring theme was “beyond content”. By that, the gathering of film, broadcasting and entertainment executives meant how to turn the current threat to their livelihoods into a solution for at least survival, if not runaway success. All agreed that, apart from getting their content online in the best shape possible, they needed to move much further downstream in marketing terms. In short, they should start offering services—beyond content—that add to their audience’s experience and satisfaction.
The problem is rapidly becoming too big to ignore. In a recent survey of some 10,000 consumers, IBM found that the use of mobile music and video increased five-fold between 2007 and 2009, while readership of online newspapers more than tripled. Over half the respondents used social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Two out of five regularly read newspapers online rather than in print. “In terms of digital content consumption,” the researchers concluded, “consumers have clearly moved beyond the trial stage.” And as they do, they take their value to advertisers with them, leaving traditional content suppliers scrambling for lost revenue.
It is not just gadget freaks and early adopters who are making this happen. Sure, the young and the technically nimble were among the first to abandoned print and airwaves for online content capable of being accessed anywhere, anytime. But the middle-aged have now also joined the fray. Indeed, Facebook recently had to pull the plug on chatting housewives because they were hogging large chunks of the social network’s bandwidth for hours on end. Even 55-year-olds and up—long the bulwark of print and broadcast media—are nowadays getting much of their news, gossip and amusement online.
This migration from old to new media is causing the industry to fragment, as publishers, record companies, film studios, television networks and other content creators butt heads with device makers such as Apple and Sony as well as online distributors and content aggregators like Amazon, Google, Yahoo! and YouTube. In the process, established ways of doing business are being overturned, calling into question how traditional content—whether print, graphics, audio or video—is produced and delivered.