A new report from Pew Internet & American Life Project on “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer” has some interesting data:
In this new multi-platform media environment, people’s relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized, and participatory. These new metrics stand out:
Portable : 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
Personalized : 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
Participatory : 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
This is useful information to be sure, but I hope small and mid-size media outlets – or any content-producing organizations, for that matter – don’t take the key findings simply as marching orders to push more random content out onto mobile channels and stick more random widgets on their Web pages.
After working in journalism, where instant analysis is valued – and sometimes overvalued at the expense of actual market research – I can imagine the dialogues in some places:
Publisher: “I just read the new Pew survey. We need to make all our content more available for mobile users, we need to make our Web site customizable, we need to allow users to share our content on as many social media sites as possible and we also need to push this content out to those platforms ourselves. And get it done before May 1.”
Managers in online and editorial departments: “OK, boss. We’ll get right on it.”
What’s missing in the script – and will be missing in many places – is an in-depth exploration of what kind of content do mobile users want and what kind of content do they want to share. More questions: How do they want it? When? How does it differ from the traditional news content we’re currently cranking out? What unique, location-specific content can we offer better than anyone else? Do we have the resources to provide it? How will we measure the success of these efforts?
And, once we know those answers and many others, what do we hope to gain from the effort?
Finally, if this is, in fact, a priority initiative, can we create an organizational infrastructure that makes it a priority?
That last one is tough, especially for resource-starved organizations that are already trying to do too much with too little (and are doing it progressively worse as a result). The lack of resources and the relentless pressure to generate content traps many organizations into fighting an endless series of daily skirmishes and prevents them from ever stepping back and assessing the entire battlefield.
As I noted in a previous post, convenience plus content equals customer loyalty (I think I made that up myself, but am leery of taking credit because I’m sure it’s got to be floating around elsewhere in the blogosphere). If you buy that equation, try these variations: Convenience plus infrequent, spotty content equals running in place. Convenience plus bad, useless content equals irrelevancy.
In other words, focus on the content strategy first and the tactics will become obvious.
Of course, some organizations (hopefully including my former company) will take the time to step back and figure this out; we’ll be able to tell which ones did because they’ll be the success stories that everyone will be copying next year.