In the futuristic 1993 movie, “Demolition Man”, the character, Lemina Huxley (played by Sandra Bullock) was asked what a book was; her response was, “the outdated form of DVD”.
We all wondered when this prophecy was going to happen. Then came the internet and steadily, since 1995 (by my account, because that was when I first started accessing the internet as a student), every single media known to man has been disrupted. The reality, today, is that every business or company is first digital. The Social Media App, Twitter is now the world’s undisputed number one source for news.
Against this backdrop, all over the world, News outlets (Print & Electronic) have embraced this new order. Every media house is in competition with every other media house (no respect to geography) and Twitter. The lines have been blurred (every media house now deploys texts, videos and podcasts without discriminating) and no media house is holding firmly to a quondam definition.
I can’t possibly express enough the fact that most people (especially millennials, the specific demographic that are defining service delivery across every industry divide and who would influence marketing at least for the next 30 years) have umbilical links with their phones. There is no other time in recorded history where people understood their uniqueness and consequently are demanding personalization in every service rendered to them, like this present time. We live in a world of smartphones, smarthomes, smartcars, Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), Passwords etc.; therefore, the paradigm has been upended to the extent that Mohammed, does not go to Mecca, but Mecca is demanded to come to Mohammed to remain relevant.
It bears emphasis that Nigeria’s News outlets are yet to fully embrace the new standard of “Digital First” and that is really hurting their revenue. I am neither a millennial nor a Digital Native (I’m a first generation Digital Immigrant…I speak the language with the right accent and have an excellent grasp of the culture) but can’t remember the last time I picked up a Newspaper or Magazine to get the news. The crowds that mill around Newspaper vendors’ stands at Busstops in most neighbourhoods are totally non-existent and where the vendor stands still exist, the crowds have greatly thinned out. Smartphones and data are now accessible and affordable to most people. A post-COVID 19 world is going to be even more intolerant of companies, businesses or organizations without a robust digital presence.
How can the Nigerian Print Media industry bounce back from its self-inflicted misery and back to winning ways? First, take on a Digital First mindset. This entails understanding its vast audience (all the works – demographics and psychographics) and understanding what news really means to them (what is new, what do they know about it, how much do they want to know about it and in keeping with the knowledge of their aspirations or intellectual leaning…what they should know about the news) and then use technology to deliver the answers.
The whole focus of communication today, is to deliver value and engage the recipient meaningfully. The Digital First ideology always puts the customer first (in product design, delivery and in fact throughout the lifecycle of the product). You don’t define value; the customer tells you what value is (and purely from a personal POV). People are seeking information beyond breaking news and the need to be abreast of current affairs. People want to know the news replete with stats, all of the sides of the stories you cover, how it’s shaping their world, the implications on a personal level, the repercussions, what to do with it, what is around the corner, how they can take advantage of it; in other words, people want well-researched news items from experts to enable them make decisions or to support or remain a fan (of a sports brand – team or player/athlete).
It is impossible to achieve these without putting in place a robust analytics mechanism. Analytics functions like putting breadcrumbs in the track of your customers/prospects that ultimately lead you into the deep recesses of their mental processes. A proper deployment of analytics will lead to greater personalization of your offerings.
When you have finally designed and delivered value, you must engage. This involves opening your heart and channels for feedback. You’ve got to enable your customers/prospects talk with you and with one another every step of the way. You’ve got to use all your Social Media assets and engage with them for example, in live sports coverage, you’ve got to spice up your coverage (be it texts, video or podcasts) with live feeds from your followers on social media (often through the use of special purpose hashtags and to a designated social media handle). Take advantage of every opportunity to digitally press flesh with them. Eye witness reports are still very relevant; starting from 9/11, the happenings that have affected mankind the deepest have been covered by eye witnesses and ahead of professional journalists (every person with a camera phone is a potential reporter).
In today’s world, it is very difficult to gain the trust of your customers or prospects if you don’t pay attention to your personal brand. We are in an excess economy (many people do what you say you do and probably, for less) and the fundamental inclination of buyers is to lean towards influencers (i.e. thought leaders and subject matter experts) with very healthy social media presence and assets, with a body of excellent work to boot. In the sports world, people who follow the football transfer market, look out for one name; Fabrizio Romano of Sky Sports. Through the years, he has proven time and again, the authenticity of his reporting and whenever he posts these words, “here we go” on Twitter, the whole world is abuzz with the recognition that a transfer deal is done. I’m sure that at such times, visits to Sky Sports website burst at the seams. The imperative today is that, journalists must take their personal brands more seriously.
In conclusion, you can only attract advertisers’ money if you can deliver the numbers. Use technology to improve stickiness – make access to any information on your website one click away (max 2 clicks), use a combination of website archetypes to put the news where the eyes can see, use your analytics tool very well to deliver personalization (only the kinds of materials that interest the individual), make your website a portal (to give your visitors a wider girth of information and consequently, a broader, more enriching experience), develop a niche, a house style and don’t stop there. Research every topic, till every interest or thirst (from the academic to leisure) is sated. Don’t limit yourself to one communication type – use ALL at the same time wherever possible! We want to know what we want to know; give us and we will give you the numbers and you will be in business.
I close with my mantra, “technology does not become relevant until it is social” (apologies Professor Clay Shirky). Embrace ‘Digital First’ with a mindset that puts ‘Social First’ and that means ‘People/Individual First’.