Media Threads April 6, 2019

It’s 2019, we’re in the era of fake/false/outright lies news, and somehow major brands still think it’s cute to attempt an April Fools prank. I’m sure some people still like these pranks, otherwise why would brands waste time and money doing them? Still, it feels like the era of peak April Fools was at least five years ago.

So on Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday …), I found myself dreading every story I read. Waiting to be tricked into liking or sharing something that wasn’t true.

Although, now that I type this, this could apply to any post on the internet at this point.

You know who I feel bad for though? The interns. In marketing departments across the county, interns are being forced to execute these plans at the demands of out-of-touch middle-aged marketing executive. You know they go home at night and roast their bosses.

Regardless, even if this era wasn’t so fraught with fake versus real news, these pranks have overstayed their welcome. Brands, including the media, should be using marketing to build trust with an audience, why risk that for a poorly conceived prank?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good prank. Who doesn’t? I just don’t want to risk brand equity to do it.

The pivot to e-learning?

Over the past few years (or two decades) publishing has pivoted from print to digital, to platforms, to video, to social, to subscriptions, to podcasts, to digital agency and back again a countless number of times.

It seems as though the next great pivot we’re heading for may be e-learning. Which may not be a bad thing in my opinion. And may not even be a pivot.

My background is in audience and marketing, and I’ve always been high on subscriptions. I started on the subscription train back in 2006 at The Daily Record in Wooster, OH. I wasn’t there long enough to see it flourish, but it was the right direction at the time and it still is today.

When I see publishers starting to build out their own e-learning platforms, I see it as subscription adjacent rather than a new pivot. You can offer e-learning as part of the subscription bundle, or your e-learning platform is another step in the funnel to creating a loyal customer, and retaining them over the long-term. Even better, you can partner with another business and make it part of your digital agency offerings.

E-learning is already a massive business opportunity, and is only going to grow. Publishers should get on board now. Consider the following from Folio:

A new generation of students, however, has been exposed to digital learning throughout their standard education, and many professionals are looking for more efficient, flexible ways to get certifications and credits towards advancement. To wit, just about all of us treat YouTube as a free-to-access academy for how-to’s on any subject. Not surprisingly, the worldwide e-learning market, which was pegged at $165 billion in 2015, will explode to $275 billion by 2022, according to market research firm Orbis.

Read the full post here

I came across an uplifting example from a legacy magazine publisher that I had forgotten about. Trusted Media Brands, formally Reader’s Digest Associated (yes, that Reader’s Digest) launched an e-learning platform and, after struggling, has seen it flourish:

The project initially floundered and didn’t make any money, so Vince had to find a way to make it work … “Our market research lead to errors as to who we thought might buy the product and this was reflected in the content of the videos … “our videos looked like free YouTube content.”

… Vince reported that by year two the project was close to breaking even and by year four it was turning a healthy profit. The courses had a knock-on effect of encouraging sales of books and magazines.

Read the full post here

And while the focus of Trusted Media Brands and Folio are magazines, I can envision local media organizations building out similar platforms, partnering with trusted local partners. Standing up an e-learning platform for a media organization that already has subscription and digital services capabilities is not a big leap. It’s an adjacent business to two existing profit centers.

Quality Content Matters

Although newsrooms continue to shrink in the face of tough economic conditions, the Guardian reports that investigative journalism is thriving.

Newspaper newsrooms may have shrunk, but they have benefited from working in partnership with startups dedicated solely to long-term investigative reporting. These include UK organisations such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ) and the Centre for Investigative Journalism. The BIJ works with national media groups to produce stories of major significance. In December, this enabled the Guardian to report on the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs discovered by Palestinian doctors.

Read the full post here

Although the article focuses on newsrooms in the UK, I can tell you that I’ve seen similar efforts in local newsrooms – including the newsrooms of the media organizations where I work. We know resources can be scarce, so focusing them on stories that can have the biggest impact to the community is critical. Investigative journalism can have that impact.

This post from the 2019 Digital Innovators Summit post on Publishing Executive also discusses the importance of quality content – and notes that readers are willing to pay for it.

My favorite line from the article:

John Wilpers, author of Innovation in Magazines World Report, who summed up one of the main themes of the conference when he said, “There is so much crap content out there that people are willing to pay for excellence.”

Read the full recap here

What did Facebook screw up this week?

I wanted to keep this week’s post free of the negativity that seems to gravitate towards Facebook, but we all know that each week the company will do something that is worth discussing.

From Wired:

Researchers at cybersecurity firm UpGuard have discovered two troves of unprotected Facebook user data sitting on Amazon’s servers, exposing hundreds of millions of records about users, including their names, passwords, comments, interests, and likes. The data sets had been uploaded to Amazon’s cloud system by two different Facebook app developers.

Read the full report here

If this sounds familiar it’s because it is. This is what Facebook said they would fix after the Cambridge Analytica breach. This new data is from January. 2019.

Oh, Facebook.

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