Content is what people hunger for. It is the reason they switch on the television, listen to the radio, read the newspaper and by the way, it is also the reason they access social sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Media owners (from henceforth known as Content Owners) need to formalise two simple principles:
- What the best platform is to get the content to the user (Distribution)
- How to make some money along the way. (Monetisation)
When it comes to distribution, some CO (Content Owners) are doing a better job than others. Look at the likes of Media 24. They have evolved to distribute their content via all sorts of channels - going beyond the traditional channels (Newspapers and Magazines) to distributing via digital channels such as News 24 (Online, Mobile, Apps etc) and their various social media plug ins. Example - A newspaper like Die Beeld has over 300,000 unique subscribers visiting it on a monthly basis- and a printed circulation of 67,000.
For Beeld, the distribution method of the content is clearly evolving.
A few years ago - Primedia Radio represented 4 really good radio stations. Then they realised they are sitting on a newsroom, that creates tons of content daily - that could be used smarter. Enter "Eyewitness News" which is now a website, a social media service, and who knows - maybe one day a Television channel. A simple example of a CO realising that they have a valuable asset - and working on branding, distributing and monetising it.
While we are on the topic of content ownership - one has to then beg the question - When does someone like Barry Bateman become a CO himself, and why should he use Primedia as the best method to distribute his content? Somewhere in that mess might lie a future for a smart journalist / business entrepreneur…
Why Naspers have never decided to optimise their massive news room (remember, they "own" thousands of journalists creating tons of content daily) - and to launch a Television news service on DSTV - I don’t know. They own the content - surely printing and selling it is not the most optimal way to distribute and monetise it? You already own a Television network, so evolve and look at that rather. Mr Bekker will have to explain that to me one day.
The billion dollar question though, is how do you monetise these initiatives?
Let's look at Mail & Guardian as an example. The print product distributes 45,000 copies a week - for which the newspaper receives a certain amount of money in revenue from cover price and advertising.
Compare this to their digital presence.
They have a Twitter following of 110,000 people (the most of any newspaper in SA) - showing that there is a massive appetite for their content. They are looking at interesting and exciting ways of now distributing it via iPad versions of the paper, and other online channels. All very clever, very sexy, and very exciting.
However - how do they make money? After all, you need to continue to pay the salary bills of the team producing the content. That is the tough part.
There are a couple of options.
Websites like Beeld, Burger and Volksblad, have gone the paywall route. It makes a lot of sense for them - but the jury is out on how much consumers are willing to pay for these services. Then there is online advertising that - whichever way you look at it - will be smaller than what they make in the newspaper for many more years to come.
The question is then - if the printed version disappeared, would they make enough money off the paywall and online advertising to fund the content? I don’t know.
The distribution and monetisation of content I believe is one of the most fundamental exciting shifts we will see evolve over the next 20 years. One thing for sure though - Content Owners will be around, will be profitable, and will be here to stay despite what happens with the ABC figures.