How social media is disrupting the news industry & how product marketers should react

The trend for consumers to co-create news content is disrupting the news industry. Instead of seeing it as a threat, marketers in the publishing industry ought to strategically embrace social technologies and explore their potential for news production.

News publishers, operating in an industry which has been in decline for well over a decade, need to respond to this threat by producing new digital products which leverage user participation in the different stages of the news process.

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Social media like Twitter have already created more complex news supply chains in which the lines between consumer, competition, distribution channel and supplier are becoming blurred.

While news production is currently still dominated by professional news journalists, the percentage of people who rely on social media to gather their news is steadily rising: Pew data reveals that consumers aged under 30 years of age and people who live in large cities rely on a greater combination of media for their news and information than other groups, and are more likely to inform themselves via Internet searches, Twitter, blogs and websites. Furthermore, those who live in large cities, along with suburban residents, are most likely to be digital “news participators”. What are News Participators? News participators are defined as individuals who:

  • share news stories via email,
  • post material on social networking sites,
  • comment on news stories on websites or
  • contribute to online discussions on message forums.

The increasing proportion of the population who have grown up in the web 2.0 era and the continuing trend for urbanisation combine to create a macro environment that is strongly favourable to the establishment of content co-creation value chains in the news industry.

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Traditional news supply chain

The traditional news supply chain is now due to change  as technologically enabled connectivity and changes in social demographics affect the way that specific groups of consumers (the under 30s, the urban dwellers…) interact with news.

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Emerging news co-creation supply chain

Some newspapers have started experimenting with new news reporting models and trying to more effectively harness “social era” tools. The possible impact of this emerging trend is threefold:

  1. It could completely transform the news value chain (see Serrano, Greenhill, Graham, 2015)
  2. It could innovate the news product development and increase product excellence by integrating the expertise of customers and ‘lead-users’ into the news product itself. (Ernst, Brem, Voigt, 2014)
  3. It could pose a threat as well as an opportunity through the phenomenon of news sharing on social media, as this sharing via online networks can both foster customer loyalty and wider brand awareness and at the same time cannibalise the subscription revenue stream – a trade-off that needs to be considered. (Ma, Lee, Goh, 2014)

Individual news organisations need to consider the applicability of this trend to their business. For example, if the company’s product portfolio consists of publications mostly targeted at an elderly and/or rural population or those with limited access to the internet, the emerging co-creation trend is unlikely to affect their business in the near term.

News Co-Creation Trend: Three Ways Marketers Will Need to Adapt to Succeed

    1.  Attitudes – how marketers’ thinking needs to change:
      Marketers need to understand consumers’ changing role in the supply chain. This means that from being a group that is marketed and sold to, marketers need to start viewing consumers as potential supply chain members who create content and add value. Therefore, a different understanding needs to be developed of their contribution, their needs and motivations in order to support the move to co-created content.
    2. Skills – what marketers will need the ability to do:
      To improve the engagement with consumer-contributors, marketers will need to learn the skill of collaborative communication. To steer the business, they need to improve their survey and analytical skills to provide the business with the data-driven insights into consumer preferences and the types of content that consumers like to contribute and which drives revenue as well as reader engagement. Gillmor (2004), for example, asserts that news success can be measured through “news conversation”, that is news which is suitable for understanding in social interactions.
    3. Behaviours – how marketers will need to act:
      In addition to up-skilling their team members to provide new data-driven customer-contributor insights and educating their internal audiences about consumers’ new role in the news value chain, marketers need to build a brand strategy that supports their organisations’ aim to establish product leadership, which is the most appropriate strategic marketing response to the co-creation trend.

Product excellence as a strategic response will position news publishers to create cutting-edge co-created news products and gain early adopters for this new service before competitors do so, giving them the ‘first-mover’ advantage and establishing their reputation for innovation. The result will be a well differentiated product with unique features, and a highly engaged, loyal customer base.

Conclusion
This blog post advocates moving from the traditional transactional consumer relationships to managing consumers as a source of of content and value. This new approach offers news publishing companies new growth opportunities through the production of highly differentiated products, reduced production costs and increased engagement with and relevance to core market segments. Marketers need to adapt to be able to support their news organisations in this new environment. Once they understand the new supply chain model, they can produce consumer insights that can form the foundation of a brand strategy that establishes their companies as innovative product leaders.

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