What if I said you were missing half of your target group? Would you listen?
What if I could show you they are the most positive, the most active, and the most influential? Would you believe me?
What if I said you can start attending to the needs of this crowd with some simple measures? Would you act?
While news media business fights for survival, there are other industries thriving on our quest for answers, making money on the thirst for a sustainable business model for quality journalism. I have not been able to find a global number representing the turnover on media conferences. But my gut feeling – and the fact that ad sales companies and management consultants are turning into conference organisers as we speak – is that this segment of the meeting industry is exploding.
- “We bring together leaders of global media groups.”
- “Hear the latest research.”
- “Connect, network, explore…”
Amid this constantly increasing flood of invitations, I received one the other day that managed to catch my eye. It was from “Digital Media Strategies 2014,” sent from what seemed to be a private e-mail account.
The list of keynotes was impressive:
The way the organisers managed to simply exclude half of humanity’s input provoked me so much that I invested my time in writing them an answer: “Dear Tim, Thank you for the invitation. I hope that I must not deduce from the speakers list that this is an all-male conference.”
18 November 2013 · by Anette Novak
At the Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi, trying to buy a small packet of peanuts recently proved extremely revealing.
At the first counter, there were three attendants: One was on her smartphone, while the second was braiding the third’s hair. None even looked up at the client, ready to make a purchase.
Second try: two men discussing with each other. Neither seemed interested if there were clients or not, let alone if they scored any sales.
My first guess is these non-devoted employees in the state-run airport shops earn monthly salaries for “looking after the store,” and no incentives such as sales commissions and no feedback such as client satisfaction surveys.
My second, not so wild guess: The turnover is far from dazzling.
This experience, made last week in Vietnam, where I was facilitating a workshop on the future challenges of journalism training, pulled my attention to a similar pattern in our own industry: The clients storm into our “stores,” but we don’t greet them, we don’t smile at them – and, most importantly, we don’t sell them much.
Even though they, in many cases, are eagerly looking for a product or a service.
One pretty remarkable assumption we base many of our managerial decisions on is that media consumers cannot be guided or steered. They are irrational, disloyal, and all we can do is follow what they do and try our best to adapt....[more]
15 October 2013 · by Anette Novak
To grasp a confusing present and a complex future, taking a thorough look in the rearview mirror can prove helpful. So let’s do just that. Let’s do some print-historical archaeology work.
In the good old days, the news media offer was not simply the delivery of news updates (as many tend to remember). If we dig through the top layers, we will unearth a rather complex offer, attending to a multitude of customer needs.
Sure — local, national, and international news represented one dimension. But there were more. So many more.
Here is an attempt to create a list – and to investigate the hidden opportunities up for grabs for anyone who manages to translate them to a connected, interactive, and collaborative present.
- Op-eds: It was never just news with views. It was value-based leadership, giving a sense of purpose and direction to the community. In the digital era – paradoxically enough — analogue events are more important than ever before.
Instead of writing about what must change, you can act it out, co-creating a better future for everyone. The editorial maxim that “racism is not acceptable” translates into integration projects in real life, bringing people closer together, growing minds — and relationships.
- Statistical data: Property prices, company transfers, vehicles, salaries, or crime rates — public data is a goldmine for anyone who wishes to offer live, geo-located utility.
Pinpoint the needs of different audiences, within different contexts. Offer simple and easy-to-use personalisation options, add interactive and collaborative layers, and — voilà — you have moved the boring, mostly non-relevant listings of the print version into day-to-day mobile necessities.
- Weather reports: We never get tired of discussing the amount of rain or sunshine, winds, and waves — what’s normal and what’s not. But where are the interactive maps, the crowd collaboration, the sensors collecting community-specific local data like snow depths or water levels?
10 September 2013 · by Anette Novak
Linda, 19, is dyslexic and, therefore, prefers communicating via Snapchat. She also likes graffiti and cooking.
Dieter, 28, owns all the latest tech gadgets. He is obsessed with electric guitars, spending time on communities where the positioning of a specific screw on a specific instrument can generate long discussion threads.
Sandra, 85, has a non-smart cell phone and never texts with her friends and family, because her eyesight is poor. She has no computer, loves crossword puzzles and watching TV.
This is how unique every single person in your audience is.
There are no longer masses in media.
The days when you could “send” average messages to passive receivers are gone.
So why does it take you so long to personalise your offer?...[more]
11 August 2013 · by Anette Novak
The news industry loves to market itself self as a “watchdog.”
But with the ongoing revelations from the National Security Administration surveillance scandal, there are few media houses who live up to this branding. A disturbing fact, since personal integrity is one of the great concerns of the community.
You wish to build a solid relationship with your audience? Well, the NSA scandal might just be your chance. The question is: Will you take it?
Three years ago, the cloud was “it” for sharp CTOs (chief technology officers) within legacy media. Why invest in expensive in-house hardware when Google and the like would take on the burden for “free”?
One of the evangelist companies was the UK Telegraph Media Group. However, Toby Wright was far from alone. He soon was joined by an impressive string of publishers, happily adopting cloud strategies, outsourcing vital information and communication technology (ICT) functions, to deliver better services for less cost.
But what about the security? Could we really trust the cloud with sensitive information in general and safeguard the confidentiality of sources in particular?
I remember voicing my concerns at the time within a management group. I also remember being silenced, both by colleagues with higher technological competence and by external consultants, all swearing that Google was the good guy, “doing good shit.”...[more]
14 July 2013 · by Anette Novak
Legacy media all around the world are desperately chasing new business models. This should logically result in the greatest experimenting the industry has seen in history.
But, strangely enough, this is not the case.
Instead, the executives are playing a multi-billion dollar version of Simon Says. The metered digital subscription model is attracting numerous new adepts every quarter.
Ladies and gentlemen, you lead companies ranging from tiny, local solitaries to gigantic multi-nationals. Some of you target a national minority, others publish in one of the great world languages, serving a global audience.
Some of you represent great brands, loaded with tradition and credibility. Others get bad appreciation scores – or are hardly even known at all in the target market.
The differences are humongous. So why on earth do you all seem to share the belief that there is a one-size-fits-all solution?
As a media consultant, I sometimes startle clients by asking what they actually know about their customers/users/readers. A basic question, you might think. But more often than not, the answer is: extremely little (except perhaps their snail-mail addresses and if their bill payment histories)....[more]
10 June 2013 · by Anette Novak
During a business development seminar with a group of managers from the retail business in Helsinki some weeks ago, one woman in the audience told me a story about her 8-year-old niece.
The family was on a car holiday and, as they crossed the border, the girl’s iPad suddenly lost connection (since the family subscribed to a Finland-only 3G supplier).
She was disconnected. And shocked. It had never happened to her before. She started inquiring into “why.” Her mother told her the Internet was “in the air” and now that they were abroad, they could not reach it.
The girl listened carefully. But she could not understand why Youtube didn’t work; “the air” is everywhere, isn’t it?
Why am I referring to this family scene? Because this girl is the future media consumer. A part of your future market. She doesn’t perceive media as something you “get” or “have.” She lives “in” it. It is part of her existence. Or at least should be.
To her, it’s fire, earth, water, wind – and Internet. She will turn her back on any company that will remove or even disturb that most crucial of basic elements.
Now, we are right in the middle of the Great Paywall Era. A wave of traditional media companies all across the Western Hemisphere is testing just how ready their respective markets are for digital subscriptions.
If you are one of them – or planning to become one – contemplate if you are abruptly cutting away something basic that your customers are used to getting. Ask yourself how this new offer of yours will impact the relationship you have....[more]
13 May 2013 · by Anette Novak
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was an emperor who was promised a brand new suit by two fraudulent tailors. It wasn’t just any old clothing; they promised it would be invisible to any person who was unfit or incompetent for the position.
The emperor loved the idea, imagining it would help him distinguish wise subjects from stupid. When the fabric was nearly ready, he sent one of his ministers to inspect it, but the gentleman could not detect anything. The cloth was invisible to him.
But did he admit it? Of course not. He was so scared that others would find out he was not good enough for his job that he remained silent. Playing along, he told the tailors the fabric was beautiful.
The tale by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen might have ancient settings and origins, but the moral is a very live issue. It can be devastating when no one dares to contradict the crowd, by fear of coming across as stupid.
The news Web sites are well into their teens, but the companies behind them still haven’t changed their ways or their competence.
It was more than three years ago that John Paton said: Put the digital people in charge – of everything. But very few actually did.
As an international media consultant, I am privileged enough to meet media executives in most parts of the world. Often I am surprised by how strong the resistance to change is. Still.
But what is even more pervasive is the non-willingness at the highest management levels to learn. To start testing all these new digital tools and services. To actually interest themselves in the opportunities out there....[more]
07 April 2013 · by Anette Novak
The old business model is broken.
Disruptives are grabbing the revenues – but not filling the old civic mission. And the print consumers are dying faster than marketing directors can get younger subscribers to venture out on the brand-new digital toll roads.
In short: Legacy media is dying.
This picture of dystopia has been painted over and over again; no need to describe the gloomy status quo of our industry any further. But let’s linger on the question of how we actually ended up here in the first place.
Easter is the perfect time to reflect on topics like life and death. And, in a way, the old Christian teachings on capital vice offer some clues to why and where we went wrong. If you never went to Sunday school, tag along and I will try to explain the seven “sins” and how legacy media committed them:
- Pride: The we-know-it-all attitude, predominant for much too long with media executives, as well as reporters.
Born during the information monopoly days, when we thought we knew it all and had no lessons to receive from anyone. We owned multi-million dollar printing presses, prime property, and — even more important — the power to “package” reality, to decide who speaks and who doesn’t and on what topics.
- Sloth: After decades, even centuries, of astronomical profits just rolling in without any serious business development or <a title="innovation efforts"
11 March 2013 · by Anette Novak
Last week, while participating in a UNESCO conference on the Information Society and its challenges in Paris, I was asked to reflect on online comments and the disturbing phenomena of bad-mouthing and hate speech.
After a period of open approach, in the name of freedom of speech, Sweden and other countries are now evolving toward more restrictions; editors are taking steps ranging from harsher moderation to closing down the comments forums altogether.
The polite explanation for this evolution is that media executives are acting on an altruistic urge. They do not wish to contribute to the creation of a more segregated society, nor do they want their carefully constructed arenas to be soiled by extremist opinions.
The more realist version: They have concluded that welcoming anyone onto their platforms hurts their brands.
Recent research reveals that readers tend to mix up editorial content and comments. Hate speech in the comments section below an article seems to taint the overall experience, strengthening preconceived ideas and prejudice in the audience.
By closing down previously open platforms, your editors will get criticised, and the anonymous crowd will brand the move as “censorship.” Freedom of speech and the press, however, never meant allowing everyone to say whatever they want. Mass publication means power – and with power comes responsibility.
Throughout his successful career, business guru Warren Buffett has often stressed the importance of posing the right questions. Here’s my attempt to do the same:...[more]