This is a question I was really keen to understand more about. During my career, I’ve worked for media owners in TV and press, both of which continue to go through incredibly changing environments. There is a great deal of pressure on these traditional content creators with digital consumers using ad-blockers and some publishers bringing in Paywalls, giving them more control over premium content. Press publications have been dramatically hit; year-on-year, there was a drop of 10% in circulation for Newspapers between 2018 and 2019. And between 2011 and 2018 magazine circulation dropped from 820 million to 374 million, which is a decrease of 54%! This is all happening as people have more access to content than ever before, a lot of this is being created outside the traditional sources from bloggers and ‘Influencers’.
1.1 (Marketing) A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
‘influencers can add serious credibility to your brand’
Influencers have had a lot of exposure endorsing and sponsoring products, promoting drinks or clothing brands etc. This certainly has its place and appears to have benefits for particular brands, but it has been argued that sponsorship deals don’t feel authentic and there are requirements around disclosure.
Also, different sectors require different types of influencers (and there are many). If I own a sports brand then I might want a celebrity sports star to promote my leisure-ware, whilst if I am a bicycle brand owner, high quality peer reviews are going to be more impactful. But for products such as cars, as a consumer I want to listen to or read a review/article from someone who is independent and knowledgeable on the subject, who’s able to clarify things to me. As a subject becomes more technical, it helps to have it explained in everyday terms for the ordinary consumer. In that case I don’t care if they’re considered a journalist or influencer as long as the content is good.
Within Automotive specifically, there are lots of influencers who are creating incredibly well produced, high quality content and it’s in huge demand. They use drones for aerial footage and have high production values to create content people enjoy. They have a level of creative control that publishers might not or won’t be able to offer their contributors. This can add a level of authenticity people like and connect with. But this content is often around the more exciting cars, ones that you’d love to own but it would be difficult to justify remortgaging your house for.
Other Media Owners
On a slight tangent, when I was at ITV at the beginning of my career, the industry was going through a recession. ITV had a very formulaic style of programming with a number of Soaps (Emmerdale, Coronation St, The Bill), some Champions League and the occasional drama such as a Touch of Frost or Heartbeat, as well as the big hit at the time, Pop Idol… These types of shows went out as media commentators discussed the death of TV and with fairly uninspiring programming such as this, it could be difficult to argue against it. But it wasn’t, it was just the way people were consuming TV that was evolving. Streaming services have proved that there is a demand and hunger for higher quality content. People want high production values, well structured stories and currently those streaming services are reaching those demographics that previously were so difficult for traditional channels to reach.
The actual production company is not relevant for consumers, it’s the ease of which it can be consumed and the quality and relevance of the content which is important. We don’t need to follow the primetime schedule anymore, we can dip in and out with personalised recommendations.
This is the same for publishers, as it’s necessary to have a centralised home to access articles from a publisher. But, being able to access that same high quality content in other relevant environments is key. Publishers already do some of this with their presence across social media and apps like Apple News. But there is a need for them to have the ability to blend their content more into the everyday life, allowing a level of personalisation and pushing that content to the consumer at the most relevant time. If I’m looking at buying a car or going on holiday, I want to be able to see high quality articles with all the relevant information pushed towards me. Recognising and being reassured by an article from a familiar Publisher that’s independent.
I feel there is definitely a future for traditional publishers, they need to keep promoting the quality and independence of their content. Good journalists are influencers and well written content will be desired by people. But it needs to be accessible to an individual when it is suitable to them – they have to go to the consumer, they can’t wait for the consumer to come to them.