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Major digital trends shaping marketing today

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20 September 2012

1. Death of general interest newspapers and magazines

newspaper ad revenue US
There is ample evidence to suggest that print publications and general interest ones in particular are under severe pressure from falling advertising revenues and declining circulation. Many have, and many more will close in the next three years. Others will continue to exist, but online and behind paywalls, with the consequence of much reduced audiences. On the other hand niche publications, particularly online, are growing. In the US the first signs have been detected that non-live TV viewership is also declining.

Cable TV US

From a marketeer’s perspective this trend impacts organisations’ ability to buy media (there’s less print media to advertise in). Earned media (where others talk about you) is increasing in volume but moving from print to online.

2. Rise of content marketing as a form of social media

There’s general recognition that merely using social media tools are not enough. For companies to be effective their owned media efforts need to build an engaged community and/or audience. In other words: They need to function as a kind of media company. Doing so has very real advantages says Altimeter:

“Content marketing, or creating and publishing media rather than ‘renting’ advertising time and space, has always existed.Emerging digital technologies, platforms,and channels now enable any brand to function as a media company with very real advantages: building branding, awareness, trust, purchase intent, and word-of-mouth, as well as lowering acquisition costs and increasing engagement with target audiences.”

Social vs content marketing
To do this however they do not need a marketing approach to social media, but rather an editorial approach. This means a different mindset and investing in different kinds of skills.

3. Blurring of the distinction between professional media and people as media

Orthodox media theory posits that most people get their news and information from mainstream media. That is no longer the case. A number of studies have shown that most people now get information from other people and not traditional outlets:

“Clearly, ordinary users on Twitter are receiving their information from many thousands of distinct sources, most of which are not traditional media organizations—even though media outlets are by far the most active users on Twitter, only about 15% of tweets received by ordinary users are received directly from the media. Equally interesting, however, is that in spite of this fragmentation, it remains the case that 20K elite users, comprising less than 0.05% of the user population, attract almost 50% of all attention within Twitter. Thus, while attention that was formerly restricted to mass media channels is now shared amongst other “elites”, information flows have not become egalitarian by any means.”
Study: Who says what to whom on Twitter

4. The rise of the new elite – the influencers (the audience with an audience)

This new broader media elite that attracts and commands a lion’s share of the attention is made up of celebrities, but also, a new class of “semi-public” individuals like bloggers, authors, journalists, and subject matter experts. Many modern media strategies are designed to cater to this group, so-called marketing to an audience with an audience. Tools like Klout has sprung up to measure their influence.
Ray William JohnsonRay William Johnson – he has 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube

5. The shorter life of content and the importance of real time

Emily Bell sums this up rather neatly in the context of news organisations:

“New audiences now assess quality through immediacy and relevance. You fail to register a story when it breaks, you lose an opportunity. You don’t have a sentient observer able to share immediate thoughts on the subject on a platform or network I belong to, you also lose. You are not available to be a trusted sounding or thinking post when big things happen, you won’t get them back to read or watch your insights three days later.”

The Tweet that announced Osama Bin Laden’s death

This principle – the importance of live events to grabbing attention – applies equally whether you are a fashion retailer like Ted Baker, an author promoting a book, or the London School of Economics (LSE) raising its profile. This is why Twitter – a service designed for real time – is in vogue particularly with journalists.

But this does not mean all content should be brief and non analytical. Long form in depth content is also doing very well today. It’s mediocre mid length content that’s fallen from grace.

6. The rise of mobile

The adoption of smartphones have consistently beaten even the most optimistic projections. In February of this year more than half of the UK’s population had a smartphone.

Global Mobile Data Traffic
According to Cisco globally, mobile data traffic grew 2.3-fold over 2011, more than doubling for the fourth year in a row. Already Cisco projects that at the end of 2012 there will be more internet connected phones in the world than the global population number. The fact that everybody will soon have powerful computing and information devices in their pockets is one reason why real-time information and news has become so important.

7. Increase in visual media including video

Perhaps partly due to the rise of mobile, the consumption and production of images (both still and moving) is increasing. Instagram (a network for sharing photographs) and Pinterest (a network for collecting and categorising images) are but two of the fastest growing digital platforms today. At the same time Infographics, Data Visualisations and Video are some of the most successful ways to get your content to be passed on and shared.

Victorian infographics
Victorian Infographics

8. Reemergence of the primacy of brand and relative diminishing of SEO

Because of the rise of social media, native mobile apps and the technical refinement of Google, traditional Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is playing a less prominent role, while internet users are becoming less promiscuous.

This is due to a number of reasons. Users are increasingly finding services via recommendation from those they follow on social media. Many apps like Instagram and websites like Facebook can not be indexed by Google. Lastly, Google is constantly improving its algorithm in a largely successful effort to surface the best content regardless of efforts to game the system.

On top of all that it is also taking social signals into account when surfacing search results. This means that if a user with a large audience – like Robert Scoble – Plus Ones a web page, it rises in the search rankings for his thousands of followers.

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