The media in 2014

On Tuesday I spoke about the media and innovation in 2014 as part of Hotwire’s Revisiting The Digital Trends Report event – some notes from my talk are below.

2014’s been a year of experimentation and change for the media. From the NYT embracing native advertising to The Guardian unveiling plans for a private members club, everyone is looking at ways to monetise their brand and its offering.

Native advertising has led the charge here, but as the year’s gone on there’s been a mini backlash as people question how clearly the distinctions between editorial and advertorial are signposted.

This spirit of experimentation has been driven by the need to respond to the gauntlet thrown down by Buzzfeed and co. We predicted that the battleground would switch from search to social and that’s been vindicated by the actions of publishers. The Mirror has led the way- launching Ampp3d at the back end of last year and following it up with MirrorRow Z. The Telegraph with Project Babb and the Independent with i100 are more recent converts, but it’s clear that as time goes on more and more orgs will adopt this approach

This is true for micro approaches to content too – we’ve seen the media experiment with different ways of telling stories, from Vine and Instagram Video right through to indepth immersive narratives (shameless plug – we developed one for Microsoft, it was a lot of fun)

At the start of the year we said everyone was big media now. Looking to 2015 we’d amend this to say we’re all publishers now. A subtle change, but an important one. We need to think like publishers in the way we approach creating and sharing content.

Having embraced content in 2014, the next challenge is distribution. Like it or not, paid is only going to be more critical, with services like Outbrain due to become a central part of any content marketers toolkit. A large part of this will be identifying the kinds of content that work for your audience and the channels which work best for sharing them.

How can we do this? Well at the simplest level, let’s do what publishers do, see where people are sharing the content we publish and then tailor our own social content for these channels.

Paid can then be used to amplify the best performing channels – giving that added boost.

Again, the media is showcasing the way for publishers here. The oft- cited Quartz curve is a perfect example of this – based on their data and instinct they realised articles between 5-800 words simply weren’t being shared. So they stopped writing them. That coupled with their ability to market effectively via both live social – Twitter, Facebook etc and so called dark social – email newsletters and the like  has been crucial to their success.

In years to come we’ll look back at 2014 as the year the media regained its confidence, finding new ways to create and share content, while also experimenting with new revenue models. Looking to 2015, we’ll see more of the same, but also consolidation around the areas which work.

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