Matthew Ingram, a senior writer at Fortune (who’s hilarious on Twitter — check him out), recently wrote a harsh piece about the state of the media world in 2015. It was so harsh that he referenced the most depressing story in the Bible:
What’s happened to media companies in the last decade or so — and what continues to happen to them even now — is like a more boring, digital version of the Book of Job. He’s the Biblical character who got hit with a plague of boils and lost all his family and possessions, because God wanted to test the depth of his faith.
Ingram writes about the changes that have been ailing media companies for the past decade: declines in subscriptions, print and otherwise; lower ad revenue; ad blocking; and, last but not least, an increasing dependence on social media platforms.
Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram are the platforms that matter for distribution now, and they are becoming more powerful rather than less—Facebook already accounts for a huge proportion of the web traffic to major media sites. And publishers are rushing even further into its embrace because they have no choice and can’t think of a better option.
The problem is that fewer and fewer people see media companies’ sites and platforms as true destinations; if the trend continues, their content will become commoditized.
But there’s a ray of light at the end of Ingram’s dark piece. This nugget of wisdom is crucial for media companies who are serious about strengthening their brands and succeeding in the long-term:
. . . Some media companies — like ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, De Correspondent in the Netherlands, Politico, Quartz — have shown that if you are intensely focused on a community, you can thrive . . . . In the end, Job’s faith was rewarded (sort of), although that didn’t bring his family or his possessions back. In the same way, media companies can’t recover what they have lost, but they can find new things that might ultimately be better in the long run. Onward!
Onward indeed. In Part II, I’ll be going over a) why building community is the way forward and b) how media companies can go about creating community in a way that benefits everyone involved.
For Part II, go here.