Content: The Next Frontier for Media and News Organizations

April 28, 2010, 3:28 pm by

I am consistently amazed by the amount of content that is created online in a single day.

The numbers are mind numbing.

24 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s nearly 35,000 hours of video per day!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In one week, 350 million tweets are posted on Twitter, 1,750 billion emails are sent and 700 million blog posts are published. Now, factor in all of the daily and historical content published by news organizations, magazines and TV networks. Is your head spinning yet?

Fact is, there is A LOT of content out there, to say the least, and these numbers are growing at exponential rates. Take Facebook for instance. It took Facebook five years to reach the 200 million-user mark. It took them one year to double that. Think there’s a lot of content on the web now? Just wait for the Internet stats report to come out in 2015.

The state of content on the web presents an especially unique set of challenges and opportunities for content-based media outlets such as news organizations, magazines and TV networks. Not only are they competing amongst themselves for visibility, but they are also competing against this onslaught of content uploaded and created by bloggers, brands, bands and the billions of regular Internet users who tweet, Facebook, and comment on a daily basis.

There are some content-based media organizations, however, that are starting to adapt to the state of content on the web. They are doing this by unlocking the doors to their content; both historically and in real time, and by offering multiple consumption options across multiple media platforms. They are also allowing their readers to interact with and share their content, and are putting in place updated business models that take into consideration the new ways that content is being consumed.

In short, the organizations that are leading the charge are those that are understanding context, control, convenience and most importantly, the need to constantly evolve their business models and philosophies.

The Guardian and The New York Times are two prime examples of forward-thinking newspapers turned cross-media content producers. Both of these news organizations have not only opened their current and historical content to the entirety of the world wide web and mobile web, but they were also on the forefront of launching Open API platforms for external developers to access and customize the distribution of their massive content vault. Thus allowing more people to see their content in more ways, and leading to more views and more dollars.

The Huffington Post, another leading online news organization, charted a path for content sharing and connectivity in the industry. HuffPo used a fully customized and integrated Facebook Connect platform to allow their community to interact with their content through familiar social networks. The results showed astounding results; reporting up to a 500% growth in monthly referral traffic from Facebook after the integration.

In all of the above cases, more traffic leads to more advertising dollars. But, forward thinking content-based organizations are also finding other clever ways to capitalize on content, without having to limit access.

The Economist, for instance, gives free access to articles but also offers an audio edition that contains word-for-word recordings of its content, read by professional broadcasters and actors. Audio is available for free to subscribers and for $8-$10 for non-subscribers.

GlobalPost, a web-only international news organization, offers a premium membership section called Passport that members can, amongst other things, connect with correspondents, suggest and vote on story topics, and gain access to exclusive global news briefs from the editor. The Passport membership is $50 per year and brings a new dimension to how the public can interact with the site and its staff.

Yet, for every organization that “get’s it,” there are a vast number that lag behind. In a recent article for GlobalPost, Justin Martin opens up about his frustrations of the American TV news networks by comparing them to their counterparts overseas. And, in this circumstance, as he points out, America has seemed to fall drastically behind.

Why is it, Martin asserts, “I can watch Al-Jazeera live on my iPod Touch anywhere on earth with an internet signal, but I can’t watch CNN. I can view EuroNews in real time from my office computer in Cairo, but not Fox News. I can watch BBC’s Arabic network live in my lap on a Wi-Fi-enabled jet 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, but not NBC.”

American TV news networks are not alone in the struggle to understand how to deal with content in the digital age. The story is a familiar one by now: company wants to maintain control of its content, company upsets public and hurts itself in the process.

Whether we like or not, it’s time to start embracing the web and all of the opportunities that it presents. This includes letting go of the reins, and adapting to the new models of consumption. Redefine content – what it is, what it means, and how we as consumers want to interact with it.

What do you think? What other content-based organizations have charged ahead or fallen behind?

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