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The Content-first Media Organization

April 9, 2011 1 comment

The definition of a media product is changing. A newspaper now also has a website that has video. A radio station engages with listeners through social media. TV content is viewed live or on PVRs or on catch-up websites. Advertising revenue is becoming more fragmented as it navigates the optimal mix of TV/ print/ radio/ digital. Progressive clients no longer think of one-to-many communication campaigns. Rather they prefer to engage with consumers through multi-platform campaigns that involve two-way communication with existing and potential customers. The advertisers no longer think of their audience as primarily single-media consumers but as multi-media always-connected consumers.

Similarly, consumers increasingly select their media according to the content they are seeking and the convenience it offers. Does a TV series have the same value if a viewer chooses to watch it three days later on their PVR or on a website? Is a newspaper story still relevant if it was read on a website 12 hours before the first print run was made? Is a radio station’s playlist still trend setting if listeners choose their hits according to friend’s online recommendations?

Yet despite all these fundamental changes to the media audience consumption habits, media companies continue to be structured in a very traditional sense based around the delivery platform. A newspaper news room is sacred and not related to a TV news room. A publisher worries about his paper costs. A web editor can’t possibly be as important as a TV anchor. A video journalist who creates a video story for a newspaper’s website is not the same as TV news reporter. The fashion magazine broadcast on TV has nothing to do with the fashion pages in a magazine. A programmer still worries about prime time ratings. And let’s not mention bloggers and tweeters, because they are just not “serious” or “real” according to the “veterans” amongst their peers.

These views of the media organization structure are outmoded and outdated. A story is a story, regardless of whether it is written, tweeted or broadcast. Consumers value brands that engage with them and bring them their desired content when and where they want it. They don’t want to wait for the 9pm news bulletin or for the front page to roll off the presses. It is time to shift focus to a content-first model where the organization structure is unified to deliver content across all media efficiently.

This effectively means that media organizations should be flipped onto their sides. Rather than organize vertically by distribution platform, they should be organized horizontally by content type. News, Sports Business (etc) content creation are the engine rooms of the future media organization. The distribution becomes an issue of packaging: print stories for a newspaper, publish the 140 characters on twitter and the 500 word article on the website along with the video on the TV channel and live stream.

This is a tough pill to swallow, Editors, writers, publishers, channel heads and producers have a long held belief in the sanctity of their medium. Very few see the need to extend their content across different platforms. The dying newspapers are still questioning why their web sites should scoop the lead story. Most TV producers have little regard for creating content for anything other than the TV screen. Radio presenters do not think of a visual aspect of their broadcast.

The media companies who recognize this challenge and begin the painful but necessary journey to reorient themselves to the new audience realities while managing the impact on revenues will be the ones who survive and grow.

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