Your Behavior Is Shaping Publishing’s Future
Posted May 9, 2011on:
Yes, you are that important. Well, at least you in aggregate. Just having the tools available to change the world won’t do much if the behaviors and habits aren’t in place to use them. Today’s content consumer not only has the tools but the behaviors to shape how digital media consumption and delivery will work in the years to come.
The two main behaviors that are affecting digital media’s place in our world are sharing and shopping around.
We Share Everything
We are share-happy, passing on restaurant reviews, news articles, comments on current events, and their our own insights with equal enthusiasm. I’d guess that sharing is on the rise and only going to get bigger.
Sharing has already had a tangible effect on the way digital media is consumed and used. Josh Catone tells of how sharing launched the Minneapolis/St Paul television station WCCO into celebrity. The station broke the news of a star NFL quarterback signing on with the Vikings with a Twitter post, before it even got the article up on the website. That day “WCCO” became a trending topic on Twitter. This only happens when people ReTweet or mention a subject a lot, thus sharing it. This fame helped the station to gain notoriety and build a reputation amongst Vikings fans, something important in the battle for attention. Clay Shirky, in his book Here Comes Everybody gives another example of the power of sharing: how the Boston Globe in 2002 published a string of articles about a Catholic priest’s pedophilia and forced the Catholic Church to reform. Of course, it wasn’t actually the Boston Globe. It was the hundreds of people it reached via sharing. Not everyone in Boston would care about this story. But Catholics around the world sure would, and did. Thanks to sharing and new forms of communication, people beyond the circulation boundaries of the Globe were able to communicate and organize themselves, spreading the news as they did so and giving the Globe a whole new audience to work with.
We Like to Shop Around for News Sources
The days of getting all your news from your local morning paper are long gone. People no longer have to sift through a bunch of filler to find the articles they want to read. Instead they are having that done automatically with news aggregators or a simple Google search.
This means that people are now getting their news from a variety of different sources. Sports from Yahoo, Politics from MSNBC, and society news from a list of cool bloggers. People are not going directly to websites anymore, they are going to RSS readers, link aggregators and social networks like Twitter. The articles can be thought of separately from the actual publisher because the reader isn’t going to that publisher, she is simply going to a cool story hosted on that publisher’s website. From there, the publisher may be able to rout the reader to something new on their website, but maybe not. As Clay Shirky points out in this talk, websites don’t have a front page because each page is a front page with the ability to grab and keep a reader’s attention. But because people are browsing multiple sources for stories rather than just a single newspaper, it is hard to get the consumer to click on the link and go to the website. The competition for that click is tougher because all the news sources are lined up next to each other with nothing but a brand name, short description, and a headline to work with. And worse, the newspapers don’t know who the potential readers are because much browsing is done on aggregator websites. It’s hard to target specific demographics without knowing who you are talking to.
The Future Will Look…
… different. My crystal ball gets bad reception, so I can’t predict how publishing will look in a few years, or even tomorrow. But, however it looks it will be shaped to accommodate sharing and aggregated browsing. I like to think that both sharing and aggregated browsing will meld, kind of like Digg or even StumbleUpon. It may even become a layer to a social networking site.
What do you think?
*This post was written as part of an assignment for my
but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.