Social media: thinking about the consumer
[thinking out loud]
I love the way that internet has opened up the media.
Now, all can play.
Before, considerable power resided in the hands of a range of gatekeepers. Editors were sure of what their readers or viewers wanted, and, with an eye to the demands of their advertisers, delivered it. As an author, if you wanted your work to be published, the major major hurdle facing you was the editor of the magazine or the commissioning editor at the book publisher.
Now we can all be content providers, whether we are journalists, winemakers, retailers, PR professionals or just hobbyists. We are entering a happy age where everyone gets a chance to find their own audience. Some will do good work, some bad. It's up to the readers to decide who to listen to.
But so far these consumers of media have been almost totally absent from this discussion. Resembling the production-led wine industry which focuses on making wine and only then thinks about selling it, we produce our content without much thought for who will consume it all.
The attention span of our information consumers is already stretched. The sort of readers the wine media would like to attract are usually busy people with limited media-consuming capacity.
If the amount of information published grows rapidly, yet the capacity for consumption of this information is static or falling, then the conclusion is that readers or viewers are going to be spread more thinly, and new media entrants will have difficulty in building a sizeable readership.
People who are time-poor may also have difficulty in locating the best information and content, which is now more thinly spread across a broader range of websites and blogs. This could actually work in favour of the old style gatekeepers: we still have a need for media outlets capable of filtering through lots of material and bringing us the best.
Print media are struggling but not dead. Existing print media players have a small window to grow into cross-media brands. Having a magazine may not make much money, but it may be possible to cross-subsidize the print production (which brings credibility and brand recognition) by events, for example.
We also assume that because few people buy print wine magazines that there is a limited market for wine media. It could be that there is actually a limited market for wine media as it is published today. What if the reason for poor readership of wine magazines was because the content failed to engage? If new media is better written and more engaging, then this could grow the market for this sort of information.
Whatever happens with wine media, it will be the consumers who are critical in shaping the future. We need to remember them in our discussions.