From Old to Newest Media in the Time of Convergence

One of the biggest distinctions between the future of what users will want to do on the internet from what they did or in fact are doing now, is the difference between being passive viewers and active participants. Old Media doesn't get this important orientation on how it needs to treat its audience. Imagine a bar where you could only talk to the bartender? It is like the mentality of the Economist to set a paywall for their content and beg for their "loyal" customers to pay. The "make-->push" content model is not going to thrive in the Time of Convergence (which is almost really here this now btw).  

I am trying to tease out some of the key issues facing online media organizations. Our approach of course, as you can see in Heritage Key ( I hope), is from the almost-off-the-chart right position of newest media. We are trying to figure out how to mix the content-focus with social tools with the interactive tools in the most unique way. I can break-down some of our ideas as follows in terms of the content that we make and people consume:

  • News -- breaking items, needs to be fast on the site and some value add to reacting to web flares, creating news content is a big plus
  • Articles -- this is the focus of the commission effort to effectively surround useful topics with a series of articles, interviews, video pieces. You would expect to gain some lift on google/SEO as you create content against sets of keyword objectives.
  • Media -- images, video, galleries, maps that are either unique or curated. Presentation and navigation are critical. We use Solr now to add discovery aspects to site search.
  • Interactive -- answer the challenge of what to do on the site. So we have some quizzes, but really the big attraction for Heritage Key is the Virual Experience (GoVirtual).  While enabling comments on a site is not always so easy, it is hard to consider that basic feature as very interactive these days.
  • Directory -- collects, curate, manage relevant data that is needed by the community. Add community/social filtering to expose data back to site visitors (i.e. popular, rated recently, new)
  • UGC -- shift now is to manage the flow of user generated content and raise relevance and quality. YouTube is struggling as an example to separate out the noise/infringing content from the serious/regular content creators. My sense is that the site owners need to direct/drive UGC a lot more. It will be the role in fact of the site to help people do more than they can otherwise do themselves = a better package, more traffic, more distribution, more promotion as much as a better concept.

These are the components, the challenge is to get the mix right and scale the production costs against the overall revenue potential of the site/brand.

As we continue to rollout our vision on this in Heritage Key, it is clear why Old Media doesn't get Convergence and why even New Media players will have challenges making the next transition. Organizations work better on push. You can plan, manage push in a much more predictable manner. Where the site needs to marshall the community, well, it is a lot more difficult and outcomes less certain. Video killed the radio star. The requirements for success in the future will be no less dramatic. The "push" stars won't "pull" communities.

One way to mitigate some of the risk is to get the hardcore users into the alpha/beta testing areas. It is important to engage people that will be the evangelists or even find solutions with you. But you will need to expose the ongoing work--which is a minimum is uncomfortable. With large deployed online brands it may require new branding and even new sites as testbeds/community crucibles.

Another point in comparing the players that is worth making is about the cost of content creation. The Old Media players have very high costs, often with long cycle times from idea to publish. Production costs must go down. Newest media content production is low and will get lower. The quality is perhaps not the same, but as we already see with blogs and tweets the immediacy is must greater.