Ofcom event and an inside look at offline media

OfcomYesterday Ofcom invited Perfect Storm Digital Marketing along to an event to discuss the results of a recent report supporting the spending of public money on new local news channels, following the announcement that local news is under threat due to the massive drop in advertising spend.

My role at the event was to be the voice of online and inform my audience of how content is perceived, distributed and found online.

As I sat there listening to the many offline channels discuss the need for local news and why this investment was needed I constantly questioned in my mind where was online in all this “research”. It was apparent that online was very much an after thought or indeed an add on to any discussion. The morning came and went without much mention of the wonderful world of the internet, then my turn to speak.

I outlined in a world where the perception of content is changing, news and broadcast journalists alike would have to embrace those changes or suffer in the digital world. I spoke of the impact the real time web is having on content and how Social Media is changing how we access information. I stirred reaction on many topics that I sensed struck fear into my audience. Where was quality journalism in all this content? This was one burning question for many audience members. The sad reality was many online users today don’t value the quality of the content, they just want the content.

Take the example of the military shooting at Fort Hood; that news story was broken to the world by a soldier based within the base through Twitter. Yes, Twitter. No mainstream media source knew about the incident until the tweets were leaked to the world. Although the incident was true, many of the tweets released by the soldier were inaccurate – did readers stop and analyse the entire wording of the content? Sadly, no they didn’t. They just cared that it happened and distributed the information accordingly.

This example is one of many in the ever changing landscape of online content and something that offline media owners have to accept and adapt to. Already many offline channels are a tad late in their reaction to online media and content, it has often been secondary to print and television in terms of priorities. After lengthy discussions around online content and its value, what was the first question in the mind of my audience “how can we embrace this?”, “what can we do to change our structures?” No, in a true offline media fashion it was “how can we regulate it?”.

Ultimately this is the problem with many offline media channels – the amount of red tape and politics to get news stories out there is playing secondary to sources such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Offline media content owners cannot compete with online unless they change their thinking and restructure their organisations.

For me personally, I do believe in quality content and I do believe that news and broadcast journalists are key to the future of content online, however they have to embrace how content is changing. How do they do that? By investing in online portals, by cutting out the red tape and by retraining journalists to understand the online world and its tools.

I could sense yesterday an element of fear from the media organisations as if online was out of control and would harm them more than do good. Online is being blamed for the death of printed publications, however, the only people to blame for the death of newspapers is the publications themselves, many tabloid newspapers are offering the same churned out content both online and offline, there is no originality and customers are now aware of that. These customers want something new and fresh and they get that online from other sources. There has been plenty of debate around the death of print journalism however I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, instead what print media needs to do is embrace online and get a new fresh message out to the world offline and online with good quality content that is original.

The future of content is the web, whether offline media owners accept it or not. What needs to happen now is for huge investment into online portals and how content is delivered online. We are now in the digital age and we are still throwing investments at standard forms of media which have been proven not to be as effective in the current age of online. It’s crazy to think that £5 million is being invested in “local news” channels, with no mention of online portals! The government and offline media giants have to accept the internet is now, its happening and people want information online, surely now this is where major “public money” investments should be or at least a sizeable portion of the budget available.

JF

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