Lots of people understand that the traditional business model around news is breaking down. Far fewer realise it’s not just the business part – advertising – that’s broken. It’s also news itself.
Why is this so hard to understand?
A planet full of people is going from a daily diet of a newspaper and a couple of news broadcasts to constant access to almost everything there is to know. Inevitably, this is causing people today to want and expect different things from their time spent on content than people did 20 or 50 years ago.
But what we produce as news has hardly changed.
I’ve been banging the drum for content change for 10 years now, since the beginning of the now long-dead Newspaper Next project in 2005. It has often seemed like a lonely mission. The hardest thing to change in the deeply disrupted newspaper industry has been the definition of news.
But some new developments give me a little fresh hope:
- A paper released a few weeks ago by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for Media ...
23 April 2015 · By Steve Gray
For those of us in traditional media, it’s the source of our problems, and it’s also the uncharted space of our new opportunities.
With bandwidth rising toward infinity and costs falling to near zero, it’s enabling all sorts of new content models to eat our lunch. “Free” digital bandwidth has enabled all of our disrupters, from early ones like Craigslist and Facebook to newer ones like BuzzFeed, Instagram, and SnapChat. And more will keep coming.
A disrupter that’s rising fast right now is content marketing.
That’s a broad and somewhat nebulous term, but let’s define it this way: It’s the practice of developing and distributing engaging content on behalf of a brand or a business. The object is to catch and hold a target consumer’s attention, hoping to convert him or her to a user of the brand or business.
It’s important to catch the difference here. “Advertising,” in the pre-digital era, had exactly the same purpose as “content marketing,” but it was confined to ......[more]
17 March 2015 · By Steve Gray
It’s the Year of the Millennials, according to Pew. In 2015, those ages 18 to 34 will surpass Baby Boomers in the United States to become the largest living generation.
And a major new report by the Media Insight Project, just released at the NAA mediaXchange, sheds a lot of new light on their consumption of news.
The report (pdf, html) emphasises the bright side, stressing the finding that most Millennials do value news and consume it regularly. But the most worrisome finding for newspaper companies is that they rarely go to traditional news providers to get it. We are far back in the loop, when we’re in it at all.
Beyond that key point, the most important things to grasp in this report are ......[more]
23 February 2015 · By Steve Gray
Media folks, can we all agree on this statement? We’re in the audience business.
If you disagree, we need to talk, and we’ll do that in a minute.
But first, here’s the nut graf:
As an audience business, we’re overdue for a drastic rethink of what we do. Too often, we’re still doing 20th-century audience thinking amid the starkly different realities of the 21st century. We’re getting pounded on the audience front, and we have to figure out what audience strategies will work in this new environment.
Now let’s see if we can all get on the same page regarding the importance of audience:
- If you’re thinking we’re in the news business, you’re right. We love the news, and we’re proud of what it does for people. But the business reason for doing news is to have an audience. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.
- If you’re thinking we’re in the sales business, you’re right. But what we sell is access to our audiences. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.
Audience is the starting point and the centerpiece of our local media businesses. That’s because ......[more]
25 January 2015 · By Steve Gray
In the local media business, whatever hurts retailers hurts us, too. They’re feeling a big hurt right now, and we need to help them fight back.
That big hurt is a steady and continuous decline in store traffic. This means loss of sales, and that leads nowhere good for them – or for local media.
Allison Schiff described the problem last week on AdExchanger.com, reporting on a talk that Lee Peterson, executive vice president of brand strategy and design at WD Partners, gave at a big retailer show in New York.
Here are some highlights:
- In-store visits have fallen at least 5% every month for the past 30 months.
- Holiday foot traffic was down 8.5%in 2014, but overall holiday sales were up ...
04 January 2015 · By Steve Gray
When your business is undergoing major disruption and must change direction, how do you get people on board? How do you win hearts and minds to the new strategies needed to survive and thrive?
Last time, I blogged about a powerful principle that helps. It goes like this: “The only thing that changes people’s behaviour is new information. They will go on doing what they're doing right now, until they get new information.”
New information is what convinces organisations and people of the need to change. And it’s the responsibility of leaders in an organisation to share the information that convinces them change is necessary. That’s what mobilises people.
If you haven’t read that post, you should probably do it now, because this post builds on it.
This post starts with the admission that even the most powerful new information won’t get some people to change. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, even when they’ve seen conclusive evidence that it isn’t working.
What’s up with that?
In the same brilliant 1992 talk I mentioned last time, Morrie Shechtman provided answers that made tremendous sense.
He asserted that people and organisations run on certain values, and that when those values differ, the result is conflict that blocks progress. Those values have much to do with ......[more]
30 November 2014 · By Steve Gray
When a company or industry is beset by massive disruption – as the traditional media have been for more than a decade now – it creates two massive challenges:
- Figuring out how the business has to change.
- Changing behaviours in the organisation to get the new things done.
As most people in the newspaper industry can testify, both of these are difficult and relentless. There’s no “one and done” in a disruption as massive as the digital revolution.
And, unfortunately, success at No. 1 is no guarantee of success at No. 2.
Over last three years, I’ve blogged frequently about No. 1. This time let’s look at No. 2.
There’s a principle that applies over and over again when you’re trying to change people’s behaviours, in business or anywhere else. I learned it in a business seminar 22 years ago, and it forever changed my thinking and behaviour. But, strangely, I’ve never heard or read about it anywhere else.
Here’s how it happened ......[more]
05 November 2014 · By Steve Gray
One of the biggest challenges legacy media companies face today is learning to think big enough to meet the real, 21st-century needs of advertisers.
There’s a lot of talk about native advertising right now. And – done right – it can help to meet those real needs. But native is, at best, only a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.
For those who learn how to solve that bigger puzzle for advertisers, the payoff can be much greater than just another sale of print space, air time, or digital display units.
Everybody knows the old saw, attributed to Ted Levitt of Harvard, that the customer doesn’t want a quarter-inch drill. He wants a quarter-inch hole.
In the media business, the advertiser doesn’t want print, digital, native, e-mail, social, etc. He/she wants a customer showing up who’s ready to spend money. That’s the “quarter-inch hole,” and all forms of advertising are only means to this end.
In the old, pre-digital days, it was pretty easy to get that outcome. Put advertisements in a newspaper that everyone reads, or on television stations everybody watches, and you’re done.
It didn’t take a lot of sophistication to sell or buy those solutions; we were selling mainly media space or time – a commodity for which there were few substitutes.
05 October 2014 · By Steve Gray
What does the local media company of the future look like?
At this point, the answer is pretty clear. There will be two kinds of media companies:
- Those that continue to focus on their traditional media channels — newspaper, broadcast television channel, radio station(s) — and therefore shrink along with the advertising spending on those media.
- Those that morph into local media houses that can connect any advertiser with any audience, through platforms, technologies, and channels they own or don’t, to win dollars that are moving into digital advertising and marketing.
I’ve been seeing that dual outcome since about 2007, when I was on the road preaching Newspaper Next to thousands of media people. Yet even today, quite a few people are still asking the question.
The answer hasn’t changed much in seven years. What has changed, and continues to change, is ......[more]
07 September 2014 · By Steve Gray
Let’s look beyond the waves of media disruption we’re experiencing these days. Let’s try to imagine the end state, when media disruption gets done.
Wait ... will it ever get done? Yes, I think so — at the time when virtually everyone on the planet, during every waking moment, has instant access at will to virtually the entire body of human knowledge. (Maybe in sleeping moments, too.)
When we stand back and look at the big picture, what we call media disruption is really just a series of technological steps in that direction. Each step opens more hours of a person’s consciousness for access to more of the world’s information.
At some point, no longer very far in the future, that connected time will include ......[more]