The Intersection of Traditional and Social – a Paradigm Shift

Recently at an event, I discussed the state of traditional media, and the growth of online, social media. I mentioned that there are two main themes driving the growth in online media, and conversely creating challenges for traditional media. First, the financial commitment to deliver the printed word to a subscriber’s doorstep each day is becoming a losing proposition for traditional media, causing a consolidation and general shift in the traditional approach. Second, the fundamental tenant of traditional media as being a balanced, objective source of news is being challenged by the engagement consumers get through the opinion that permeates blog postings – driving more consumers online for news and commentary.
I’ll add two more of those drivers here. One is the continuing evolution of what constitutes news. In the new media environment, editorial control with its authority and one-way push has given way to the idea of a social media platform. A good example of this is how FastCompany has evolved from a print publication to more of a social media platform, complete with the tagline “Where Ideas and People Meet,” to the launch of FastCompany TV and it’s lead personality, Robert Scoble, a social media icon. FastCompany’s evolution is being rewarded with visitors and revenues. This shift to be more of a social, information-sharing platform has led to success – both in site metrics and revenues. And, the trend isn’t isolated to tech titles. It can also be seen in traditional newspapers, which are using focused content, like gardening, family and other themes to engage, create and enlist communities.
The final driver of this paradigm shift is the idea of deep linking – the ability for users to bypass a site’s homepage and go directly to the content they want. This has changed the way people interact with news sites and, as a result, get their news. And, many traditional news outlets are still wrestling with the idea of letting other sites link to their content for fear of not getting credit for it. This YouTube video from the NAB show demonstrates not only the benefit of news sites becoming aggregators through deep linking, but also the way the Web can create destinations where multiple elements, from traditional news, to blogs and even user-generated content can be combined to provide a comprehensive view of a news event. So, the loyalty of the sites that allow for this deep linking, and more importantly the sites that are becoming aggregators, is being built around credible answers to questions and sources of information. The result is a much destabilized media environment with its own winners and losers, many of them in surprising places.
So what does this mean for us as marketers? How is the growth in popularity of blogs, the evolution of news and news consumption relevant to the work we do?
This shift in the media paradigm influences how, when, where and why we engage online. Knowing that consumers are gravitating to online sources of information, which include niche groups focused on the topics of most relevance to them, underscores the need to actively engage online. As this migration continues, it’s important to recognize that social media is a medium with a new set of rules – most of which are unspoken and only apparent through considerable commitment to know and understand the medium before we engage. But, underlying all of this is the idea that consumers are more tied to, and even drive, much of the discussion online.
To best navigate this shift, we can use the following guiding truths as we put more emphasis online. 

The consumer is in control – and an active participant in shaping the perception of a brand

Channels have fragmented – requiring a comprehensive and integrated approachSources of trust have shifted – they are more personal and reside in closer proximity to the consumer

Content creation and distribution have been democratized

Transparency is required – a company’s credibility is built on truth and consistency

Engage in the conversation or fail to communicate
Understanding the implications of this shift online on the brand and products is critical to navigating the digital realm. And, following the themes we outlined in the session of transparency, understanding the medium and the idea that consumers own the brand, we are seeing a clear path forward as we roll out new digital initiatives – one with the consumer at the center, connected and aware of all of the sources of information around them. 

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