The Media In 2017

THE MEDIA INDUSTRY 2017

The Media Industry in 2017 

2017 looks set to be a completely different beast to what it was previously. There will be many changes over the next twelve-months wherever the media industry is involved, and I have to say that I think it is about time things were shook up a little.

This year we are likely to see a lot of news around consolidation of services. Demand for newspapers falls year on year, consumers consume news differently now with many viewing news services produced by news reader and aggregator services.

The aggregator services take news from many providers of the content and then distribute it all in a single place. Take for example News 360 and Apple News, whenever you open them up you can see relevant news from many publishers, and it also serves the purpose of being able to get a different side of each story from the various publishers. Whichever news you want to read is selected based on your interests and your timeline of news stories becomes much more relevant to the news you want to read.

I have not purchased a physical newspaper since the beginning of 2015, in part because I use the internet, and in part because buying a physical copy of the newspaper often comes without the benefits of reading online. Often the stories are accompanied by video online, in newspapers it is static. It’s also a terrible waste of paper.

There are also many newspapers particularly in the UK, many of them have exactly the same news, and there are actually only a few newspapers which are what I would call worthy of actually reading.

So I think for a start we will see at least a few of those newspapers merge, or they will be completely sold off.

Newspaper advertising is also something that will see a change, and many rival newspapers met back in October 2016 agreeing to extend a period of research into how they can work together more closely and share costs in a project called Project Juno.

There is no luxury of time for the publishers to work on this, it is something that is likely to be picked up by the Competition and Markets Authority who may challenge any actions the newspapers decide they might wish to take.

A single organisation that sells the advertising space across a wide range of newspapers is not too dissimilar to what happens with TV advertising in the UK. For TV, there are essentially three companies who sell advertising space across the UK TV networks.

With rising print costs and those costs hitting the consumer firmly in the pocket with cover price increases over the past twelve-months, anything that can be done to make news available should be encouraged, but I also worry that we might start to see a pay-wall structure being introduced more widely online too. If advertising is done properly and is unobtrusive to the actual story, then a steer toward a single operating platform for advertising should be encouraged.

Digital advertising is something else entirely, with both Google and Facebook taking a lion’s share of the market across the world, but digital advertising can quickly build up costs, and in many cases there are numerous threats that loom over online advertising in general.

The increase in use of ad-blocking software and the increase in subscriptions to non-advert supported subscription channels is something that many online ad-agencies are worried about. Then there is the elephant in the room, Facebook has recently admitted that it gave advertisers false information about the number of times videos had been viewed on its network, and there is a current trend of distrust with online advertising.

I also believe we will start to see many new subscription services appear, with publications such as the Financial Times seeing its readership grow since introducing a pay-wall. Cord cutters are moving away from satellite and cable services and services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, are all seeing increases in subscribers.

The issue for many though will be the increase in costs overall by subscribing to enough sources of TV and news to replace what has been lost by cutting the cord, and how will it be ultimately cost effective. Perhaps this is one area where we will start to also see some aggregation and mergers too. I can see the day when we might just have a Netflix news service bundled in with the streaming service for a dollar or so more per month. I'm surprised Amazon haven't entered this space already. Quality content costs but I am increasingly wary of having to subscribe for absolutely everything. Bundling services is perhaps the way that will keep end user costs down. 

2017 IN SOCIAL MEDIA

the state of the Media 2017 

Talking of aggregation, I don't think we will see much of that on social-media, in part because all of the social-media platforms are attempting to replicate each other. They're all converging to the same point except maybe Twitter and we will talk about Twitter in a moment. 

YouTube has now launched a community tab allowing content creators a simple way to engage with viewers beyond the traditional video. This allows creators to engage with fans between uploads by sharing text, live video, images, and GIFs in real time. This is essentially what Facebook has been doing for years.

Instagram introduced stories, aka SnapChat, and Facebook have also added SnapChat-esque features into Messenger with Secret Messages. The social-media giant also added Market Place to its range of features and this is something I am sure they will hope to expand on. Whether or not it will ever take on the likes of eBay is pure speculation at this point, but I am sure that this is possibly one of the thoughts that Mr Z has possibly considered.

Facebook Live also appeared during 2016 and it is used widely to present breaking news stories, real-time action of opening boxes, and I have used it on a few occasions to show people the places I have been visiting.

But what’s next for Facebook? I certainly think we will see some augmented reality (AR) start to be introduced in the next eighteen-months, and I think this will be an obvious evolution of Facebook Live, recognising places and landmarks in the background of live video.

I also think we will start seeing much more in the way of sponsored photo-filters. A trend that SnapChat has been offering for a while. When you attend a certain location, photo-filters are suddenly made available for you to use, only with corporate advertising of the place you are visiting. 

Brand partnerships are certainly going to be big in 2017, and I think we will see many more sponsorship arrangements with content creators who are good at influencing their demographic.
In terms of video, with the rise of Virtual Reality I certainly think we will see far more 360 degree videos across social-media platforms, and I think many media platforms will or at least would like to introduce more 360 content.

TWITTER

how can twitter survive  

I read with great interest the multiple news stories in December 2016 when a raft of top management left Twitter. It comes as no surprise and honestly I think they have done well to remain as a social media network over the last eighteen months.
 
The problem is that people are leaving the platform and going to other more relevant platforms like Facebook and Instagram in their droves.
 
So I pondered what went wrong for Twitter and can it survive. A few years ago Twitter was great for small business. You would get followers and they would all see your posts. Now whenever you post a link to your business it matters not that you have a few thousand followers, only a handful of people will actually see it. Twitter has though become more of a breaking news and President Elect, Trump platform.
 
Twitter wants businesses to pay for advertising. Why wouldn't they. This revenue is a key income of social media platforms. It's exactly the same with Facebook and they get many new sign ups created every second of every day.
 
The issue for small businesses such as my tiny media company and art studio is that we cannot afford to pay the significant fees involved until we start making enough revenue. The process of setting up an advertisement is overly complex for many who don't know the difference between cpm and cpc, let alone who to target. To run a successful advert you need to hire someone who understands how web advertising works which of course costs money.
 
But the biggest issue isn't the advertising, it's the algorithm. This algorithm is what is something that is helping to kill off Twitter, not the staff, not the developers, and certainly not the people who use the platform for its true purpose. The algorithm decides who can see what and when, and if you're linking to a business the algorithm decides that fewer people will see the post unless you pay. I have just short of 2,000 followers who have followed me hopefully to see what I am posting, yet I am often contacted to ask why they haven’t seen me post in a while when in reality I have. The algorithm is ruining social media for small businesses. 
 
There was a time when engagement was high on every social media platform, but those days are gone. If you want social engagement then you have to pay to be seen. There's no way round it.
 
From the perspective of the user the same is true. You can't see posts which are relevant because the algorithm isn't showing them to you. Instead it favours fake news and the myriad of accounts that retweet a hundred ways to improve your life stories which are essentially nothing more than click-bait sites over burdened with ads that interfere with the reading experience and purely exist to  harvest advertising revenue.
 
I remember a time when Twitter was relevant, but it no longer appeals to the younger generation who favour platforms such as SnapChat. What twitter needs to do if it is to survive is to start all over again and adapt the algorithm so that your followers see what they want to see, and use the algorithm to determine the least fake news.
 
Even Instagram is a platform which allows you to tell a story, and this can't be done in 140 characters or less.
 
So Twitter needs to adapt. It needs to increase the text limit to something more relevant, even 160 or 180 characters. It also needs to do more to prevent the spread of click-bait sites, and much more to prevent fake news.
 
Perhaps one way to do this would be to give new users the limit of 140-characters, and as the user engages, gains new followers and likes, the capacity could be increased for loyalty. Alternatively they could introduce longer stories as well as the traditional tweet.
 
It also needs to do something completely different with its direct messages platform, and I would suggest that for that it looks to SnapChat and Facebook Messenger.
 
The multitude of accounts offering to sell you a thousand new followers for just $29.99 also needs to stop. Followers should be earned and not purchased, and they are rarely real followers at all. Places and companies exist to simply click like and follow, and they do this not because they like or want to follow you, but because they want your money. This really takes the social out of social media.
 
Many see the follower count as a game. The more followers you have the better. Whilst it is nice to have so many followers, is it not better to have a cohort of followers who follow you for the right reasons?
 
Twitter needs stories, it also needs to generate an income which doesn't rely so much on ads. There are many ways that could be used to monetise the platform, increased word counts could be a subscription offering, and subscription based news agencies should provide finance to Twitter in return for posting their snapshots of news that you will be ultimately sucked in to subscribing to.
 
If Twitter was earning its keep for me, I would have no hesitation in paying for premium placements, but it only really works when you are a large corporation who not only understands the world of ad serving, but also has the large investment needed to actually promote their tweets. For small businesses it's much more difficult.
 
It's not just Twitter, other social media platforms rely on similar models, but they also offer a more relevant experience and introduce new features much more quickly. 
 
Twitter needs a new generation of subscribers who can take the platform forward, it needs to not only rely on ads and data collection, it needs to ditch the algorithm that will one day evolve and render all social media pointless for small businesses and the ultimate consumer, and it is probably going to be best served as purely a breaking news platform. That's it, that's exactly what Twitter needs to become. 
 
Jack Dorsey is clearly a busy man. Running two companies the size of Twitter and Square just isn't practical. Twitter needs a permanent CEO who can set a completely new vision. It will be a gamble and the vision needs to work, but the current situation isn't liked by Wall Street and neither is it liked by many of the people who have been with Twitter from its inception.
 
Personally I don't think the reins should be handed over completely to Anthony Noto the current CFO. A new leader needs to be found and he or she needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit, and have the ability to work hard on maintaining the level of current users at the very least, and he or she needs to test the waters exclusively in the breaking news market.
 
Twitter also needs to find a buyer. If I had the level of finance available to take it on I would certainly do it. You see there is still hope for the platform, the foundations are solid, it's just the current business model that doesn’t really work when up against the giant Facebook and SnapChat, and no one can really figure out what to do or where to take the platform next. Leave social media to social media, Twitter, you need to do something else. 
 
Twitter is a tremendous breaking news platform already, but the news needs to be reliable. Forging new alliances with news media outlets is critical when you consider the power of being able to report immediately.
 
Snapchat's looming IPO is also surely a concern for Twitter and 2016 was a hugely difficult year for the platform, 2017 will no doubt be the last chance that Twitter will get to stay on the radar of people like me and you.
 
Twitter is still a great platform it just needs to evolve, it's also a great way for everyday people to connect with leaders, celebrities, and family, and it has disrupted customer service across all industries. These are Twitters strengths but they seem to have been waylaid over the last few years, and I continue to believe that it can survive with little in the way of additional development.
 
WHAT ELSE WILL TWITTER NEED
 
Jack Dorsey has already said publicly that the platform needs an edit button and I'm surprised it hasn't been done before. It would be a useful addition but where the platform is currently failing is not its features but the speed of integration of new features. Whenever I hear of a new Twitter feature I tend to check back in twelve-months because development has always been historically slow.
 
With other platforms such as SnapChat, Facebook, and Instagram releasing new features quickly, twitter is constantly left behind. Maybe it is rooted in the fact that twitter has been difficult to monetise and they just don’t have the developers, so maybe there is an opportunity to use external developers to move things along a bit.
 
But turning its focus in to only a breaking news service with a mix of traditional publishers who are verified, and the consumer reporting local news in particular regions, the service could become much more useful and stand out from the other social platforms. 

Essentially it needs to renew itself into something a little different. It could be monetised by the media agencies and by those companies who wish to extend their customer service on to a real-time environment. By making this move it's not only easier to monetise, it also gives the end user a free way to get relevant breaking news. The verification of sources means too that it will be news that is relevant and not the new trend of fake news. 
 
Then there is the elephant in the room, the internet trolls. Twitter has been besieged by them over the last few years, and whilst there are now options to report users, they spring up with new online identities, or the accounts of large corporations are hacked.
 
Creating a new way to verify all users is a must. Those verified accounts of the major publishers and famous faces need to be extended across the service. It needs to be a little harder to just create an account, or at least if you have an unverified account, you will only receive the bare basics.
 
I don't suggest this lightly but even the limited time I spend on the platform I can often see that many are affected by the actions of the few who are determined to become noticed for the wrong reasons. Speaking to other Twitter users, it is a problem that puts some of them off using the platform entirely.

So it's not entirely certain what Twitter's future holds but whatever way it goes it will have to do so in 2017. I truly hope Twitter survives, I'm sure it will, but it will be very different to the platform we see today, it needs to be.  

If it can speed up innovation, find a buyer, and become more relevant to the younger generation, it will go from strength to strength, but the buyer will need some deep commitment to make it work. I'm only surprised that the Donald hasn't made a play to buy it already. 

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