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New audiences, good content is not 100% dependent on news

By Sergio Sicheri

El Comercio Group

Lima, Perú

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It is Sunday afternoon in Lima, Peru. At home, it is cold, But outside, through the window, I see the park illuminated by the sun. “Oltremare” by Ludovico Einaudi plays in the background. The coldness and sadness of each key of the melodious piano serve as inspiration. 

I just finished watching Nomadland. I can now endorse the Academy’s decision to honor it as the best film of the year. I also agree it deserved its accolades for best actress, best director, and more.

Actually, the one who should receive recognition is American journalist and writer Jessica Bruder. She lived with the new nomads and got an excellent story — the kinds of stories we miss and cry out loud for and demand of the young journalists of our teams.

Some of today's most popular commentators, like Ibai, connect with Generation Z on a personal level that goes beyond hard-hitting news.
Some of today's most popular commentators, like Ibai, connect with Generation Z on a personal level that goes beyond hard-hitting news.

As I read in the accurate review of this film by Robert Álvarez, “a large part of these modern nomads who live in their van or caravan are part of the Baby Boomer generation or even older.” This is a generation I have always liked for the sweet romance and meaning they have for life. Many of them (and I emphasise “many” because not all) continue to live with intensity and in their own way like the fictional character Fern in this film. Many times, this generation tries contradict the typical rules of the hectic world in which we live. So much that sometimes they sin by not recognising reality, especially on digital platforms in front of them.

Life today is colder than this Lima autumn afternoon. Even colder than “Petricor,” another of Einaudi’s songs that served to set this film. The metrics, the good content, and subsequent monetisation are leading us to realise that the new digital platforms require us to talk more with our audiences and pay more attention to the data.

After all, that’s what Nomadland did. It describes a sad new reality through a community of people. Chloé Zhao, the film’s director, manages to pack so much in this piece of art: good shots, a cold narration, and the perfect musical company to make us fall and feel sorry for her incredible story.

Leaping to the realm of sports journalism, let’s take a look at Ibai Llanos Garatea (known as Ibai), a popular Spanish-language streamer and e-sports commentator. Without getting bogged down in the differences between Nomadland and sports journalism, it’s worth noting Ibai has similar achievements. Yes, I am jumping from the cinema, but I’m staying in the world of mass communication.

I want to state the raw reality that traditional media has been going through. This is something the decision makers or the heads of the main journalistic media in the world do not want to understand: Good content today doesn’t just depend on the news.

I am referring to the episode and words that went viral from Gustavo López, a former soccer player and current renowned Argentine sports journalist. He is not a Baby Boomer, but belongs to another cold and less hard generation known as Gen X. The ESPN journalist used his radio programme’s popularity to quip, “Who is Ibai?”

And this is what I want to get to: He laughs at the new reality and a strong digital audience that follows Ibai through streaming. This is a community just as strong as the new nomads on wheels. Is Gen Z, which is not the generation I identify with, the one that has also been redefined through new spaces? The digital environment is one of those spaces, where they feel like fish in water and where Ibai has managed to gain millions of followers on Twitch and YouTube.

I change my music on Spotify. Now Il Volo plays. This Italian group of young people has been together for more than a decade. Wikipedia describes them as either classic crossover or lyrical pop. And they are part of several viral videos on Facebook affirming they are the children of The Three Tenors (Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, and Plácido Domingo). Wait! This is fake news that Thomas Lyford-Pike denied in one of his notes for the AFP agency.

I never would have imagined two tenors and a baritone sharing a stage with the Cuban salsa and reggaeton guys of Gente de Zona. It is like mixing water with oil. But this new world we live in requires these changes, and they have achieved it with a lot of rhythm, colour, and good voices. New audiences are looking for these disruptions. They want incredible stories.

Maybe that’s why there are people inventing so much fake news. “New Italian classical-pop music group” is not the same as saying Pavarotti’s children, Carreras, and Domingo. Platforms like YouTube Music, Spotify, and Deezer are amplifying these disruptors, multiplying their fans. Fans who want to know the singer or actress in depth. People who want to know about the real artist. These new platforms allow everything to be shown, every single day. We are facing new audiences that no longer believe in a single mass media. They don’t believe in traditional journalism.

In a note published on BigDataSports.media about the misunderstanding between López and Ibai, author Nicolás Rotnitzky is drastic and explains in a single paragraph how the consumption and monetisation of these new audiences is changing:

“While the traditional media need the support from companies or interest groups to survive, streamers — who also have commercial agreements and actions — are supported by their communities. That contract is stronger than any advertising guideline. This contract liberates and obliges.”

Perhaps that is why traditional journalists do not understand why Ibai has been interviewing all the stars and why footballers prefer the Spanish streamer over them. It is simple: Ibai engages in conversation — a relaxed chat. Traditional journalists look for the headline. They want to sink, assault without a knife, and steal statements that set a fire.

Brands know this. They prefer to marry content that is inattentive and does not interfere with branding. The same is true with Google and, recently, Facebook.

During the pandemic, we witnessed a strange phenomenon: The majority of sports media around the world had a huge growth in traffic. And it happened when all sporting events were suspended due to COVID-19.

The theory tells us that the algorithm of different digital platforms is also adjusted to benefit positive content. Everything is catalogued as evergreen. What happened with the absence of sporting events to sports newspapers AS, Marca, and even the Peruvian newspaper Depor was that in the they had to go out and defend themselves with the production of differently themed content on their digital platforms. Yes, they even reported on news about the pandemic.

From that moment, they began to dethrone multi-thematic media that traditionally ranks better on search engine results pages. We do not know how much longer all this will last or if, with the new algorithm setting, this will change.

Everything keeps evolving. Sports media have to go fishing in this moment to benefit from traffic with new crossover audiences in addition to navigating programmatic monetisation. In Nomadland, they show us that Amazon takes advantage of the labour of North American nomads in the high winter holiday season, when there are great e-commerce sales hiccups. And Ibai and thousands of talents show us they achieve success because they understand that by producing and telling their stories in their own style, they capture more fans and loyal followers. Brands also understand it is better to bet on communities that generate positive and purposeful spaces.

About Sergio Sicheri

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