Saving the media: using mobile to think out the box
Ferial Haffajee, City Press editor-in-chief and former Mail & Guardian editor, wrote an important piece earlier this year about the challenge of saving the journalist in the digital revolution.
Haffajee relates a story of meeting her niece in London, Samina, who showed her an iPhone app that dishes the news up to her according to her tastes. Samina paid a once-off fee of £2 for the app, while the paper cost £2.90 for that day's edition.
"Who will pay?"
Haffajee asks, "There's too much that's free and Generation 2.0 will skip to the next best free thing. And that is journalism's conundrum - who will pay for the snoopers who keep investigative journalism alive; who will fund the long, hard and expensive work of keeping teams at parliaments to hold the flame of democracy burning bright; who will pay people to read books and review them for our pleasure; who will pay the arts editors so we have informed commentary on culture rather than the blogs that are so often based first on the reportage of old-style journalism?"
Well, the simple answer is that the City Press, M&G, the Media24 Group, Avusa and the Independent Group will, of course. The question is: how?
Quite simply, traditional media needs to evolve. Corporates have used mobile marketing in many ways to bypass traditional media's role. While direct marketing has been around for many years, mobile technology has made it far more sophisticated and effective.
With the country coming out of a recession and return on investment becoming more and more of a priority, companies have en-mass revaluated the money they spend on traditional advertising channels. And why wouldn't they, when a technology such as MMS has given response rates of over 40% in some cases?
Change its approach
Mainstream media therefore needs to change its approach. Historically, the mass media has always communicated with consumers and advertisers' messages have been placed around that content. But that model is not working as well as it used to. Mainstream media therefore needs to take the leap and help corporates to talk directly to its readership in a more proactive way, while maintaining a controlled communication environment, where the rights of the reader are protected.
The common view is that the general public does not want to be spammed and so the media won't use this approach. But that's not entirely true. Advertising would not work if people did not respond to advertising. The key, therefore, lies in what kind of information is sent out and the way it is communicated.
The rise of Google and social media has taught us that people search and want information on things they are interested in. And when someone wants something and a company sells it, under the right conditions (price, available funds, product specification etc), a sale occurs.
While consumers want to buy things, they don't pay attention to marketing that holds no interest for them. However, talk to a hiker about K-Way, a braaier about Weber, a runner about Nike and it's a different scenario. People want the information they are interested in served up to them and, if they get it, they are more likely to act on it.
Develop alternative revenue streams
If the media explores ways of segmenting their readership and implementing strategies with opt-in marketing functionality, they should be able to develop alternative revenue streams. They've tried to do this to some degree with mobile websites (mobisites) with advertising.
However, this is merely an extension of a web-based model, which is not working as well as it could because of the lack of premium content on mobisites and MMS campaigns to drive traffic to mobisites.
Media houses will need to take their mobile strategy to the next level where they serve up personalised information to specific audiences in order to truly maximise the potential of mobile marketing.
This, in turn, will supply the revenue they need to keep an independent, vigilant media reporting on things that need to be reported on.
About Eddie Groenewald
Eddie Groenewald is the CEO of mobile marketing company Multimedia Solutions (www.multimediasolutions.co.za). He has 18 years experience in the telecoms industry, of which more than a decade has been in the mobile sector. He is responsible for driving multimedia solutions business strategy both locally and internationally.