Sunday, 22 April 2012

A manifesto for the Content Industry 8 - Use your experience

There’s a lot of noise out there, but there’s also a huge amount of good stuff, your job is to find the great stuff. For example, if you’re a newspaper then do the investigative journalism, get into the detail and find the facts behind the story. I can get opinion and newsfeeds faster than you can go to print, get me the truth and I will buy your paper.

There are no longer any gatekeepers. You no longer control either the creation of, or access to, content. This doesn’t have to be a threat, this can be your next opportunity, You have spent the second half of the last century amassing experts in your field, be they A&R men, cinematographers, editors, investigative journalists or any other media professionals. If, in the last decade’s rush to bottom, you haven’t got rid of them all, these are the people who can differentiate your offering from the millions of bytes of user-generated content that is uploaded every second.
Note: this does not mean take your existing content, stick it on the web and hope.

Differentiation is an opportunity for monetisation.

Take the journalism example in the opening paragraph: “explosion wipes Doncaster off the map*” is a headline that screams across the web faster than any formal news channel can keep pace. But at that pace, and by the mechanisms of blogs, twitter and youtube, that’s almost all you’ll actually know half an hour after you first hear about it.
If you follow someone local to the incident you may pick up the name of the factory and a couple of nice photos (assuming it’s a daytime incident**). But the impacts of it, and the reasons behind it? That’s the opportunity; I’ve yet to see a spokesman giving a press-conference to “citizen journalists”.
This is even more important if there is anything unusual about the incident. At a time when it is easier than ever to disseminate misinformation and lies, the need for good investigative journalism and a trustworthy 4th estate is greater than ever.***
This level of integrity is something that can be charged for, either by means of a paywall (see the Financial Times) or by actually selling pulped bits of felled trees (see Private Eye).

Expanding out from news reporting, we can see the same opportunities in other fields. There’s plenty of raw talent out there but very few people who, from scratch, can apply the necessary polish or have a wide enough network to achieve a critical mass for distribution.
Unsurprisingly this ties back into the Add Value and Be Brave sections, but it boils down to answering two questions:
why would a content creator want to work with you?
Why would a content consumer come to you (and pay you) for this content?
If your answers to those questions are about where and how you improve the quality, distribution and uptake of that content then you’re on the right lines.
If your answers to those questions are about how people have to come through you to distribute their content, how they are legally required to use your services to access the content or how only you can provide this content, then you’re a sitting duck.

* Some good news travels fast****
** Thinking of the 2011 London riots, it’s interesting how little user-generated video footage there is that is really watchable, mostly because camera-phones still don’t operate well in low-light. This is also an opportunity.
*** Don’t rest on your laurels though, taking the London riots example again, a number of twitter users started to independently validate and curate tweets about the riots and built up a stream of trustworthy sources for tracking the activity. These sources ranged from established journalists to a chap who just got on his bike and went to look at any alleged riot areas.
**** Sorry Doncaster, you know I don’t mean it.****
***** Actually I do.