7 ways the digital age has changed the media landscape

The media landscape has changed irrevocably since the world went digital and mobile.

We see this period as one of great change. An equalising period where, for the moment at least, any brand (or indeed individual) can be a publisher. The shift in access to information is at least equal to Gutenberg and the introduction of the printing press (which in turn introduced mass communication), and will likely be just as disruptive. The growth of mobile and social media consumption has been staggering, and promises fundamental change in the way that brands target their messaging and reach their audience.

While it is impossible to accurately predict where this will lead us (aside from the obvious: that South Korean rappers will rule the world), now is a good time to take stock of the biggest changes so far.

The dawn of a choice based media landscape. We choose the media we want to consume and how. Giving more power to the consumer, and to the advertiser who wants more detail about the consumer. The specialisation of media (along with more and better data) is part of the reason advertisers are able to target specific individuals and groups on a scale far beyond anything possible in the pre-digital past.

The digital age has seen a great ‘unbundling’. Everything is unbundled now. We download tracks over albums, link to stories instead of buying papers and pick the exact TV channels we want to pay for instead of having our bundles handed down to us.

Because of the choice, brands have to be more careful than ever regarding how they engage with consumers. Consumers choose what they do online, and although brands are able to engage with consumers on a greater scale than ever before, they have to be aware of the pratfalls of clumsy practice. Consumers can switch media and brands to one that better matches their values.This means that authenticity (or at least the perception of authenticity) matters more now than ever before. If a brand isn’t authentic to an audience, they will simply switch to one that is.

We all produce content now. Marketers, agencies, advertisers, brands, businesses big and small, universities, schools and even pupils. If your marketing department isn’t figuring out a way to turn your ‘story’ into viable, search engine and mobile friendly shareable content, it is time to get a new marketing department.

Brands can communicate directly with their audience. Distribution is now limitless and hyper efficient – which is bad news for traditional media space owners: “The very model of the traditional entertainment industry is predicated on the inefficiency of distribution. Films, TV, music are all produced and distributed in a tightly controlled way. The internet blows the doors off that concept because it’s an environment where everyone can distribute with maximum efficiency to everyone else.” The inevitable restructuring of distribution models is going to be one of the most interesting (and impactful) areas in the next decade.

Earning revenue is hard in the digital age. Newsbrands, for example, have no fixed idea of how to make consumers pay for a service they now expect to be free. The structure of the web means that, although you have a limitless shop window, most products can be copied and shared. Newsbrands were able to charge for their product because it was scarce (and therefore valuable). Scarcity is antithetical to the digital age.

The (possible) answer to it all, and our final way in which the digital age has changed the media landscape, is the growth of communities online. Our use of social media has typified the digital age: usage has rocketed and we expect to be able to use the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in exchange for our data, for free. Every brand wants a community and access to the data that is available from each community. The community is the means by which revenue can be created, brands can access their audiences, data can be shared with advertisers and value can be added to existing products.