User payment, the tablet revolution and more clever advertising solutions. Those are some of the digital media trends that are putting their mark on 2010.
In the beginning of the year I wrote the blog post “8 digital media trends to watch in 2010″. It has been one of the most read articles on BetaTales this year and I decided it is time to update it. This is a new version of the post, in which I have included some of the developments that have proved to put a strong mark on the year.
Here are 8 of the ditigal media trends that I think are shaping 2010:
1. Searching for new business models: Lots of experiments with user payment are taking place
Many media houses have signalled that they will try to charge customers for content. “User payment” has become the new buzz word within the media industry, and a large number of experiments have been initiated.
The wave has been headed by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who just put the web site of The Times behind a paywall.
Most media houses probably will not dare to go as far as The Times. Rather many are trying to find solutions where the most loyal readers are paying. One example is The New York Times, which will introduce the socalled meter model in the beginning of next year.
The big challenge for media houses is of course to determine what of their offerings that really provide Unique Value. There is a good thing about these experiments, though. As 2010 draws to an end, the business model of news may have gone through some significant changes. We will know a lot more about which models may actually work and which will be doomed to fail.
One thing is for sure: Most media sites need to improve their business model. Unless you are a market leader, display ads alone normally is not sufficient to run a sustainable news business online. This is becoming even more evident as display ads have become under increasing price pressure in the market. Somehow news sites will need to find additional income sources.
2. Smart phones are revolutionizing mobile web use
We are in the middle of a revolution when it comes to connecting to the web through mobile services. The basic initiator is the iPhone, which revolutionized how people use the web through mobile devices.
The result is a radical shift in how people use their mobile phones. The apps economy is exploding and a lot of people are now using their mobile phones for tasks previously taken care of by their laptops.
3. Media sites are connecting much more closely to popular social networks
Only a couple of years back many media sites thought they could develop huge social networks on their own. This approach has largely failed. Media sites soon discovered that developing their own social networks required consistant dedication and allocaton of resources. It proved to be very hard to compete on an every-day basis with the huge global players.
We are now seeing a large number of media sites using Facebook Connect and similar tools in an effort to create engagement. The reason is simple: The the ability to create engagement and loyalty among users is a determining factor of which media sites will be the winners in the future. This is even more important as much general news have been commoditized.
The trend also forces media companies to realize that the age of one-way communication is a past. In today’s digital world media need to be in continuous dialogue with their readers – or slowly die.
4. Geo location are becoming the basis of exciting new services
As mobile services explode, the location of users will be more important. Most new smart phones have a GPS included, and content providers will offer services which utilize where users are located at any specific time.
Media sites are not necessarily prepared for this trend. Many media sites are accustomed to preparing their content primarily for print and secondarily for the web. Typically they have not added the meta data necessary to offer geo located services. Now it is the time to do it!
5. Tablets are changing our media habits
The launch of Apple’s iPad has put high speed on the e-reading market for media companies. Media companies are running as fast as they can to come up with them most exciting news apps for the new tablet.
Apple will soon face competition from lighter tablets with even better screens, many of them based on Google’s competing Android platform.
For media companies an interesting user pattern is emerging. iPad is proving itself to be a sofa device – as many users primarily reserve it for the late night time.
And then there are Kindle and other e-ink deviced, designed to offer a very good user experience when reading books and other forms of text.
The number of e-reader devices in the market will grow significantly in 2010 – and so will also the buzz around this technology.
We are bound to see a large number of tablets and other e-reading devices launched in the market within the next year. So far iPad has taken a lead, but the landscape is still in the storm and huge changes will happen.
6. Much greater emphasis on new advertisement models
As space for display ads is abundant and prices drop, media sites are forced to spend a lot of time and money to develop more sophisticated ad models for their customers. Advertisers demand documentation that ads actually work – and media sites are under increasing pressure to prove the effect of ads on their sites. We will probably see a lot more innovation in this area as the sites try to develop premium ad models which can offer high value both to the advertiser and the users.
Delaying publishing is yesterday’s method – news and other content today is published as it happens. We are now experiencing the real-time web, driven forward by news feeds of services like Facebook and Twitter.
Users increasingly demand immediacy, a way of presenting news which is both compelling and addictive. At major news events users have increasingly sophisticated ways of following the aggregated real-time news streams from numerous eye witnesses.
This of course poses great challenges for traditional media companies as they face competition from observant amateurs at the scene of the news.
I am convinced news sites increasingly will take advantage of this real-time web and find creative ways of making their coverage evolve live and continuously as new information is being gathered. This includes making efficient use of social media and user content in the daily journalism.
8. News content continue to disaggregate
It seems to me that most editors underestimate how news content is disaggregated. Yet this trend somewhat undermines the very business model of traditional media companies with their emphasis on broad edited packages as their main product.
As a journalist it hurts me to point this out. Yet I am convinced that the content focus slowly moves from one-size-fits-all packages to the single piece of news content and associated meta data. For many news sites today a significant portion of their users don’t even visit the front page, but go directly to a specific news article from a Google search og aggregator service.
I think there is a clear parallell to the music industry. Their basic product used to be the album, an edited package of an appropriate collection of songs. This made sense when you had to make a physical product – like a record or CD. But as music was digitalized, the individual song took over as the popular product.
I am not saying there will not be a market for edited packages. Certainly people will still appreciate qualified editors making a choice for them. But content pieces will no longer only live within a broader package, but also take on a life of its own being distributed wherever users want to consume it. And media sites will be forced to make their packages much more unique and focus on specific user needs.