I recently attended a two day media conference – The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit which looked at both the opportunities and challenges that we face in an ever-changing media industry.
There were a number of high profile movers and shakers in the room and speakers and panels included the likes of Adam Crozier -CEO of ITV, Gino Fisanotti – Director of Marketing for Nike, Tim Armstrong -CEO of AOL and Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post.
I personally wanted to hear from the perspective of how technology and digital is going to continue to change the way we consume television content. Yes there are catch-up TV services but what is to come for user generated content? Technology and the online space enables people to produce content reflective of their own point of view as well as seek content that they want to watch but fail to receive from mainstream TV channels. So what are the opportunities and challenges here?
If you saw my last piece on the Royal Television Society Awards, you would have read that President of the RTS, Peter Bazalgette, launched into an opening speech proclaiming that traditional TV is in fact not dead, neither is it dying. Adam Crozier, CEO of ITV echoed this view stating that linear TV viewing has increased over the last year and while online satisfies the need for some types of content to be viewed online, it serves greatly as a support platform for linear television. One thing that Crozier did stress however was the need for collaboration between broadcasters, producers and platforms in order to find new ways of reaching consumers and providing quality, engaging content. This seemed to be a key theme of the day with collaboration, experimentation and the pooling of resources also getting nods from others including Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief at the Guardian and Staffan Ekholm, CEO of Moving Media+. However, this is easier said than done and it will be interesting to see whether this theory becomes practice especially when profits and audience figures are at stake.
What was evident over the two days was the message that power is changing hands. This isn’t something that has just started but it is something that is becoming increasingly prevalent. Troy Young, President of Say Media, discussed the disaggregation of media; it is no longer only the top powers that have control and decide what and how content is consumed. Yes, their reach and influence may be larger but now ‘Sam’ who has a video camera and a laptop can get his content seen by potentially millions. Young also goes on to state that the advantage of this user generated content is that it creates communities – others engage in it and it is seen as more authentic because it is an environment created by their peers. Amanda Palmer, Executive Director of the Doha Film Institute spoke about people in Qatar who have created films based on their own experiences. Women were encouraged to become directors and producers to tell their stories; stories and perspectives that are rarely seen and heard in mainstream media. This is a major advantage of the changes occurring in the industry; you no longer have to settle for the same, stereotypical images portrayed – people now have the power to showcase a more ‘realistic’ version. So what is the key message here for content producers? Tatiana Schibuala, Director of Capricho, a Brazilian youth brand, highlighted the importance of listening to your intended audience, produce content that is real to them and reflects their world and point of views. Tony Chambers, General Manager of Emerging Markets for The Walt Disney Company backed this argument by stating that when content is relevant, people are more likely to engage. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it takes really interacting with your audience and involving them in the production process to ensure that the content is authentic and has real connection value.
This leads on to how brands can harness this power of consumers and communities; as Chambers said, it is all about involving the consumer. Nike has become THAT brand – a brand where it’s consumers are considered committed advocates and ambassadors. Gino Fisanotti, Director of Marketing explained that Nike sees their consumers as their media – they are the ones that share and distribute messages so it is critical that Nike find ways to communicate with and tap into these communities. Krista Madden, Founder of Handpicked Media agrees saying that she considers consumers to be a creative pool of talent that are increasingly important to brands and for this reason, brands should do more to utilise them. So with consumers of media producing their own content and brands wanting to engage powerful communities, how can this exchange be facilitated in the online arena? Matt Jagger, Partner at Naked stated that the changes in media mean that brands can be more innovative; it’s not only about traditional advertising spots and online banners. Brand and media owners should work together to produce content, from innovative video ads, virals, online content sponsorship right through actual branded content and programming. All of these methods provide for further audience engagement and enhancement of the brand.
These are only a few of the issues discussed during the two day summit but what was clear was that while there is healthy debate, there are no clear answers. Media is in an ever-changing state and there is no guarantee what will happen in the next month let alone the next year. One of my favourite quotes from the summit was from Ralph Rivera, Director of Digital Media at BBC Future Media and Technology: “Vision without execution is just hallucination”. We can sit here all day hypothesizing what will happen next and what the best models of practice will be but armed with the knowledge we do have, our best bet is to experiment and get on with making the most out of the changes taking place.
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