Top 5: Media Trends

May 4, 2009sparxoo_admin

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Photo by Flávio Takemoto on Stock.Xchng

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

1. Efficiency (Darwinism and Maximizer)

In our dog-eat-dog world, the laws of survival are pushing us to adapt or die. How is media adapting? Well, they are either maximizing their staff, finding new avenues to deliver their message (primarily online), or slashing their headcount. Some organizations are doing one, two or even all three of these strategies to stay afloat.

Over 16,000 journalists have lost their jobs, the Tribune Co (owner of the LA Times) filed Chapter 11, the 150-year old newspaper The Rocky Mountain Times closed its doors along with 120 newspapers, newspaper circulation is down 7% and the Christian Science Monitor dropped their daily print edition and shifted their content online. “The key for us and I think the key for the key for any news organization is to control your costs, use the internet for maximum reach and to work as efficiently as possible,” said John Yemma, Editor of the Christian Science Monitor.

To prepare for such a harsh environment, journalism students are learning a diverse skill-set to deal with the mounting layoffs. Thought print is an integral part of journalism, as it teaches you how to write, it is being pushed aside by other curriculum. Writing and editing for digital video and audio is taking center stage as academia catches up to the seismic shifts in the media industry.

2. Multi-Platform (Sensory Mash-up)

As consumers look to the web for information and entertainment—or a blending of the two—media has a unique opportunity to capture this audience with engaging content. This means video, audio, real-time updates, social media, blogs, citizen journalism and the list goes on. Offering compelling content that engages readers is elemental in the viability and survival of media outlets.

Media companies are telling stories across platforms, using television for sensational stories, showing the B-roll and real-time updated online, and bringing in additional commentary and photos in print.  Newspapers can be broadcast reporters or the two could converge to deliver truly outstanding local content. USTREAM is a prime example of stations going live online. FOX and CBS can broadcast live from any location in the world with their USTREAM feeds.

Another strategy to engage users is packing useful information into a graphic, or even better, an interactive feature. The New York Times had a “Presidential Map” for the 2008 elections. As the average reporter’s skill set becomes more diverse and tech-savvy, the need for “experts” is reduced. The result: the average reporter turns into a broadcast team of one.

3. Alternative Perspective (Crisis=Opportunity)

When US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, it was not CNN that broke the story. Instead, it was an office worker who saw the plane from his window and immediately posted the incident on his Twitter feed. News and information is no longer the commodity that it once was in the pre-internet world. The new power players in a world inundated with news and information are experts who ask different questions and lend a new perspective to the conversation.

Not all thought leaders are emerging from newspapers. Blogs have ushered in a new era of openness and given opportunity to internet users to share, discuss, comment on and add to the discussion in a way traditional newspapers could never replicate. Thought leaders are not centralized in a single location and they bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the discussion. Their diverse backgrounds are what make them interesting and valuable .

The dilemma of free and openly available information, once the coveted commodity of journalists and news organizations, begs the question, what’s next for traditional news organizations? To add value to the conversation, news organizations could outsource insight from thought leaders in the blogging community. To make their staff more efficient and productive, shedding the excess, non-valuable, banal voices from the team–supplement them with freelance writers who do add value to the conversation.

4. Transparency (Private Eye)

Dominoes had a quick lesson in crisis management when two of their employees decided to play a prank and show it on YouTube. Their prank? Unfortunately for them and Dominoes, it was tampering with the food—huge social and legal no no. The blogosphere ignited in anger and a public uproar caused Dominoes President Patrick Doyle to produce a video response.

The Dominoes prank is a great example of transparency in online media. Picture the same incident 20 years ago. It would have gone through a process of filters before it reached the newspaper the next day. Instead, once the video of the two employees went viral, blogs and newspapers responded immediately. Instantaneous information sharing is making it difficult to shelter companies or celebrities from the blogerati and citizen journalists.

5. Control (Home-Turf King)

Whenever, wherever is the aim of mobile developers. That means maps/directions, GPS, calendar, news, the web and the list goes on. Fitting more into less is the inevitable future of mobile technology.

Facebook has an iPhone app where you can snap a picture of your friend in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa; tag them (which will then be posted on their feed); and share with the rest of your friends. You can reply to your friend’s comments just as easy as it is to text.

Twitter has an app that utilizes Google maps API to position your location, so when you take that picture of your friend leaning (not literally) on the Tower, your picture will be pushed to Google maps and your followers can have a more holistic experience of your vacation.

Doing what you want, where you want and how you want is what the Facebook and Twitter app are all about. Control is central to the way we use technology.