2017 saw a number of transformative events that shaped the content publishing industry. But three stand out for me as having particular significance for our industry.
The first is Rupert Murdoch’s dismantling (or pivoting as he calls it) of his empire through the sale of his most lucrative assets to Disney. There are lots of theories espoused as to the reasons for this, but for me, it finally signals the transition of power from the hands of media owners to consumers. There can be no further debate that campaign based, push content strategies will no longer work to generate success against whichever KPI you seek to measure it. The power of pull, the power of streaming content when-ever, why-ever and how-ever consumers want, is the new commercial reality so we had all better look to our commercial models to recalibrate. Real-time, authentic, personalised, relevant content is the new black and every channel needs to bend itself around this reality as businesses and brands invest heavily in MarTech to deploy content as cost efficiently as they can to get a decent ROI.
Sticking with Murdoch for a little longer, interestingly, he has gone back to his roots of news and sport by keeping his news titles. It will be interesting to see what he does in the new landscape where news is available 24/7. Where trained journalists are vastly outnumbered by twitter aficionados and, well, anyone with a smart phone (which currently stands at about 50% of the planet), which in itself has led to credibility issues. Many newspaper titles are still struggling with declining circulations at a time when we need them more than ever before to feed us genuine, interesting, in-depth and informed news. Of course, we all want this in front of the paywall. So, my second transformative trend is the democratisation of news generation and dissemination giving rise to the concept of ‘fake news.’ If pull-based content is good to promote products and services then the same dynamics that shape that industry, that the customer is king, do not seem to be shaping the news industry so effectively. I hope that in this sector, at the very least, consumers will see the value of paid-for content.
My third and final major event this year is the Federal Communications Commission announcement, sanctioned by Trump, to roll back net neutrality. As brands, charities, government bodies, inventors, philanthropists, and even corporate giants, move to make the information they have as easily available as possible on the web for the good of all, there appears from the shadows a move to restrict, rank and price tag this information.
What underpins these three events is the uneasiness or uncertainty that links the business model to the free flow creation of ideas, entertainment, news, product and service information. There is no doubt that as consumers vote with their thumbs, swiping right and left to satisfy their every need, our industry’s greatest challenge from 2018 onwards will be, how can we balance the creation of quality content with profitability.