Widespread consolidation, intense competition over digital distribution infrastructure, growing numbers of paid subscribers and high technology roll-outs – let’s explore some of the groundbreaking movements shaking up the worldwide media industry in 2017.
You get what you pay for
In the era of post-truth and absolute political bias, it’s becoming harder and harder for media consumers to find credible, reliable, trustworthy and even-handed reporting and editorializing. This is why international media publishers with real heavyweight reps are seeing swelling numbers of paying digital subscribers.
Amol Rajan, Media Editor at the BBC, notes, “Specialist publications from the Spectator to the Economist and the Financial Times have grown their subscriber bases by charging for digital access. So too have general publications like the Times (UK) and the New York Times. World-class media only has a future if it is financially viable, and throughout the history of commerce, asking customers to pay for products they demand has been the surest guarantee of such viability.”
High quality paid services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are demonstrable proof that consumers are happy to pay for high-end, high-tech, high-quality media offerings – especially when they feel they are benefitting from value-added and integrated cross-platform content. The Netflix application on Playstation 4 is awesome, for example, and works so well because it’s been embedded in the operating system itself. This contributes to an excellent user experience, and ditto for the Economist App on a quick tablet.
Pipe dreams of monopoly and leadership
Consolidation occurs where you have sub-sectors that are highly populated while demand for their product is falling. British newspapers are a classic example here, but for Thailand, this also applies to the lifestyle media section and other specialty interest and niche magazine publishing areas.
What happens when you have several media stakeholders competing over a shrinking piece of turf? The smaller players get pushed off the park, whilst the high quality smaller players are gobbled up by the bigger teams.
There is also the issue of competition between distributors and owners of content; in other words, “those who own the pipes and those who tell the stories and ideas.” There is so much noise and mess in the digital space nowadays that the only way to connect properly with a big audience is to own the infrastructure that serves the content (Netflix once again serving as a great example).
Amol Rajan offers his worldly insight: “The proposed (but far from certain) merger between AT&T and Time Warner fits into this theme, as does the (also far from certain) proposed deal between 21st Century Fox and Sky. Look out for Disney bidding for Netflix or Vice, and BT or Liberty bidding for ITV. British newspapers fit this category very well. Fewer people are reading newspapers, yet there is (compared for instance to the US) a huge array of newspapers. Expect, therefore, a few of them to be bought.”
Snapchat’s IPO: content sharing for the attention-deficient
Already looking to overtake Twitter in many key metrics, from its vast user base to almost obscene market value, the video messaging app’s much anticipated Initial Public Offering (IPO), scheduled for the spring, could value it between $20bn and $25bn.
“There are more than 10 million users in the UK alone already, and while Snapchat’s growth among the under-30s gives it a unique appeal to advertisers, the really fascinating thing is how new forms of social media are changing our behaviour.”
Teenagers across the world use Snapchat several times a day, and the app has become a bit of an anti-establishment two-finger salute to the newsfeed drudgery of Facebook – and all of your relatives who insist on placing embarrassing messages on your wall.
Snapchat is the ideal fast consumption tool for Thailand too, where digital media consumers have trouble travelling between a single BTS stop without staring into the abyss of AMOLED-bright noughts and ones – pointlessly or fruitfully, depending of course on their own objective for a patina of obsessive smartphone ogling.
If this is the future, then we’ve just entered the fast food era of digital consumption with Snapchat.