In Content We Trust

 
Trust is the online currency and mainstream media has it

Mainstream news brands are going through a hugely disruptive transition brought about by internet-driven changes in behaviour. Publishing companies must successfully negate this ‘transition hell’ to be as relevant in the new paradigm as they have been in the past.

Today’s online behaviour sees people using all sorts of sources for content (Twitter, RSS feeds, email etc.). While choice has increased, older formats still command significant audiences. Much of this is thanks to product diversity. Media organisations now tailor content to suit what audiences are seeking in each format of news, whether that be visual content, textual content, or a combination. Social media references and recirculates all forms of news, occasionally bringing new information to the conversation.

Our research shows that mainstream media is diversifying their content. For example, many newspapers demarcate content between hardcopy and online. The hardcopy version focusses more on longer form news, while websites focus on breaking news, entertainment, and video. Clever organisations have refined and differentiated their offerings for those accessing four or five different platforms in a single day.

In more advanced markets, brands want people to engage in a two way conversation and harness that engagement so it translates to sales

New behaviours have also arrived. Media companies with a great brand but in ‘transition hell’ will be aided by technology; mobile is the fastest growing of all platforms, reflected by enormous smartphone uptake. Global news organisations stream a constant feed to connected users, some monetising what once was free with the advent of paywalls. Thanks to brand trust, mobile users go to established news sites more than anywhere else and usage time on those platforms is higher today than ever.

The quickest way for newspapers to lose trust is to keep sacking journalists. Alan Kohler’s Business Spectator proved through its recent sale to News Limited that people were interested in the journalists, not the masthead. Often Google News or Twitter directs readers to big stories, but the moment a really big story breaks people head straight to mainstream media as trusted brands because brands like the ABC or The Australian will check sources and verify for legitimacy. From there the news cycle gathers momentum.

The reality that publishers may close down printing presses and lose printed newspapers is preferable to sacking journalists and losing great stories. If you lose too much of your thought bank you end up commoditising. That’s the tipping point, the danger through transition.

Today, the unique voice of traditional media companies has to compete with the rising tide of social media. Where news was from one to many, today the conversation is many to many. In more advanced markets, brands want people to engage in a two way conversation and harness that engagement so it translates to sales.

Australia is still on the first page – aiming to attract people to brand sites and get ‘likes’. We need to go to the second page which is collaboration. When people come to you by word of mouth, the trust is strongest and you are more likely to become engaged. So we are back to trust, the online currency.

Technology is going to get there and the people will come – but if you wreck your brand by killing the strength of the journalism and hence the content, then you’ve got nothing left.

 

By John Chalmers, Group Communications Manager, iSentia in Global Connections.

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