Old media, better read writing on the wall: Facebook, Apple are changing the business of news

The traditional media managments have no time to spare to plan and put in place a strategy that could help them escape the cliff they are all headed towards

K Yatish Rajawat June 20, 2015 14:21:29 IST
Old media, better read writing on the wall: Facebook, Apple are changing the business of news

Indian media giants that are still warped up in a print or pdf world online have a real challenge coming up. Facebook’s instant article feature effectively integrates what was happening through users to giving control to publishers.

When Facebook users share content on their timeline publishers get hits but they lose out on selling advertising directly. Facebook’s new offer will allow publishers to share their content directly through the instant article feature.

In a way Facebook has realised that it has an audience base which can be leveraged to distribute news or content. Most media companies still live in a destination site world, hoping the audience would come to them.

Old media better read writing on the wall Facebook Apple are changing the business of news

Representational image. IBNLive

Though the audience has stopped going to them, most news consumers use Twitter, Facebook and other apps to get information. This disaggregation will happen faster in the mobile world. Apple is also planning to disrupt the distribution of news. It has launched Apple News along with 50 publishers on board.

The entry of a handset maker and a social media platform into the news distribution business should in India be looked from a mobile point of view. It is not the newspaper that people pick up in the morning but it is the mobile. Also, the last screen they see before going to sleep is also the mobile.

With the trend catching up fast, Google coming up with its own offering on mobile to distribute news is not too far. The search giant has several advantages over both Facebook and Apple. For one, it has the largest search engine for scanning news and can easily customise this news based on the mobile user.

It also has the most amount of data about its users it knows what they search, where they live, what they do, when are they travelling and so on and so forth. If it decides to customise news in accordance with this, it will most likely break the back of every publisher. The first to be hit will be all the new online news aggregators.

Until now the new online websites which republish news or aggregate do nothing but curate and repurpose content. Most Indian media sites also do nothing but collect news from wires and republish it on their websites. Very few actually work on creating content over and above what the wires are churning out.

Google News is already the biggest wire service in the world the way it structures news content across the world. The algorithms it has developed to scan and search for news on one particular topic are getting smarter. How long will these algorithms take to become a version of opinions that the website is so proud of touting?

But that is not the real danger for online publishers or traditional media their ability to command loyalty in the online world is through design, fonts and layout. This edge vanishes almost completely in the new distribution. Facebook strips away all but the font when it starts to display content on its service. Apple News is likely to do the same.

Both these companies have learnt from the trouble Google has had with news publishers across the word, particularly in Europe where it has been forced to share ad revenues. Therefore, both Apple and Facebook have partnered with publishers in its new offering.

Google is the original purveyor of content and it is moving rapidly to demolish the content model that traditional media is developing online. Even TV will not be unaffected in the online world. Most news channels actively share their content on Youtube.com.

They get a pittance for sharing this content. Google is also creating original content on Youtube.com. One of its biggest foray into this space has been with its tie-up with storyful.com. User-generated news videos that are generally the first and most credible view of news will now be available on youtube.com.

It is not that traditional media does not recognise this competition but news organisation top hierarchy is the most distracted management. Every CEO has these six screens continuously running in their offices. Most of them sit the whole day staring at these screens.

The reason top management responsible for creating, planning and long-term strategy being involved in tactical moves is difficult to understand. It is the reason that most new innovation in television news is not happening inside these companies. Independent journalists walking the streets are creating most of the new innovation. Across channels from ABP News to NDTV most of the new programming is being done by freelance journalists.

The challenge of top management is the same in newspapers, editors and managers are busy with bringing out the newspaper or magazine. None of them have time to spare to plan and put in place a strategy that could help them save from tumbling across the cliff they are all headed towards.

The author is a senior journalist based out of Delhi. He tweets @yatishrajawat

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