I am fortunate that my brief career as a media sort of person has coincided with some of the most dramatic changes in how media is delivered. [Pedants: note that I am using media here as a collective noun, so it’s OK to use singular or plural.] People have changed how they consume media, too. And that transition is still very much ongoing. None of us really know where it will end.
Some people have yet to embrace the internet, while at the other end of the spectrum some now access media primarily through smartphones. For communicators, this changes how we work in significant ways. In this bridge period, there’s space for those who are still very much old media, just as much as it has created opportunities for those who communicate largely through social media.
Interestingly, some of my colleagues have adopted the internet enthusiastically, but their approach to communicating through the internet has been an old-school one – the expert delivering information to the reader in a sort of vertical transmission, rather than a horizontal conversation. And the delivery of print-sized articles via the web is still quite common.
My hunch is the future online is a social one. It is about sharing. You build your own tribe as a media professional, and share your discoveries with them. They share back. This pooled sharing creates a rich resource, but to an outsider it can appear rather disorganized. But this sort of bottom-up delivery of media, with people sharing what they discover, is richer and more engaging than the traditional model of wine communication. Many traditional wine magazines have largely lost their edge, tainted by the need to make $$$ with the editorial agenda subtly skewed by awareness of the bottom line.
I reckon the future for wine writing lies with those who can find an interesting story and then tell it. Be the source! Those who attempt comprehensive coverage of the world of wine, saturating their websites with thousands of tasting notes, and/or recruiting teams across the globe to cover every angle of the wine world, may not be adopting the right strategy in the long term.
How do you commission effective communication in the social media age? Can you pay contributors for instagram shots? Or a good tweet? If you pay for blog posts you end up with old-style articles, rather than effective, brief communications of the sort that build effective blogs. The modern social media landscape is an immensely visual one, but no one seems to be paying for pictures. This leaves the way wide open for those who can develop their own authentic voice, dig out interesting wine stories, and communicate effectively using the many social media tools that now exist. Sharing is the way we build our own tribes. And it’s very hard to put a value on sharing, or recompense someone for doing it.
I’ve tried to illustrate this by the video above. It’s an example of social media sharing. A 19 second video taken by smartphone as I walked my dogs in Crane Park, Twickenham, this morning. I’m sharing it because I can. It is just so empowering that we can now do this so easily. Some will share badly, some will share well. The ability to share creates new social networks that have the potential to dominate our media consumption across a number of different platforms. The gatekeepers of old are gone, and everything is changed. And those of us who communicate for a living are still trying to work out where it is all going.
NOTE ADDED LATER: As a clarification, I don’t wish to imply that I think that the only media with a future is social. For example, I think books have a future, and that’s why I still write them. I think newspapers have a future, and that’s why I write for one. And magazines and trade publications won’t all die out. As for websites, there’s clearly a role for comprehensive, specialist multi-author sites behind a paywall. Bits of the current communication will remain, but it will be smaller – and at the moment everyone seems to be clustering in this narrowing communication space.