IN MY LIFETIME, future-proofed media companies have realised their destinies lie not in the the content that they produce and not in the way they distribute their content.
Media companies that survive beyond this decade will change the way they view traditional metrics and begin analysing the depth and reach they have with those consuming their information. I listened to Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani discussing this idea in This Week in Google, episode 156.
This kind of discussion unfolds in the Emerging Trends module taught at the Limerick Institute of Technology. Next semester, we'll ask, "Is Yahoo a media company?" We'll look at how Leo Laporte has beat broadcasters at their own game. And we'll suggest ways Ireland's national broadcaster might get an easy win with fewer resources.
I've watched local newspapers dwindle in counter sales. The Irish Examiner (in the photo) is feeling the strain. During my 17 years in Ireland, I've seen at least five newspapers fail. I believe there are several in my local newsagent that will go to the wall before the economy turns around because they're not owned by local publishers anymore. Their new owners need cashflow, strong display advertising and more readers. Unlike the earliest generation of home-owned media companies, many of the current publications are run to make money, not to distribute news.
The content between the covers of a magazine or a newspaper has been reduced to a mere tool to attract people to pick up the paper. The content on the news bulletins is the same--it's designed for a niche listener to keep an audience tuned in, listening and commenting. Those three facets are more important than before because two of the facets have added dimension: audience, engaged audience, and a sharing audience.
It's in the last part of that analysis that a news channel, news magazine or newspaper should base its future. The sharing audience is one that evolves through a relationship between the media outlet and the listener, reader or viewer.
The greatest asset RTE has isn't its archives or its spectrum or its presenters or its professional staff. The greatest asset any broadcaster or publisher lies in the strength of the relationship between the mic or the printing press and the audience.
Good content, interesting presenters, and high production values burnish content but the relationship that evolves is the dimension that ensures the media company is sustainable. Unfortunately, many newspapers, radio station managers and television broadcasters think all they have to do is commission quality programmes, market content, and syndicate it in other channels. That business approach will not work with today's connected audience.
Media and its public featured in this week's MacGill Summer School in County Donegal. The politicians criticising RTE's dominance in the public consciousness used figures on minutes or on the agendas discussed on air. Politicians with an axe to grind might be amazed at the level of trust they can measure in terms of the trusted relationship Ireland's national broadcaster has achieved with voters.
To build on that trust, I believe RTE needs to choose metrics that lie beyond page views, numbers of replays or listenership survey numbers. I recommend testing a new metric that reaches into discovering who is on the other side of the television sreen, radio or mobile device. Make it easy for people to share what they see and hear by slicing up programme segments and syndicating them with code that lets the programme reach deeper into the public consciousness than the original broadcast ever reached. Extract value from those playback, distribution, amplication and reach statistics. Set up sentiment analysis for online public discussion arising from hashtagged shows. The business intelligence coming from drilling down into those data could help focus programme development. And when it does, the next 50 years of broadcasting in Ireland make a much deeper impact on the public than ever imagined.