Democratic Disruption: The Evolution of Consumer-fueled News Consumption

News brought current events into the lives of people. Social media has brought the people into current events. If anything, its consumption has become more personal – it’s no longer just about what one just reads or hears about. News today should also answer what consumers ask. “What’s in it for me?” But this selfish question of relevance didn’t happen overnight.

The delivery of news is in constant evolution. People made things happen, other people talk about them. Word of mouth turned to the town crier. Voice became print. Print developed a schedule. Titles came, offering choices. Enter radio, now you heard news sooner. Then television was invented, and you were brought closer to experiencing news with moving visuals. Networks appeared bringing more shows, more choices. Then the remote control happened. Choice became a big deal. Then computers came.Interconnectedness took place and with it, websites, blogs, social media, tags, hashtags, emerged and changed how communication happens.

Apart from serving news faster than presses, the internet has given more power to people in choosing how they want to consume their news. However you start your day, however you live your life, there is a way for you to get news, conveniently and seamlessly.

Welcome to the Age Of Disruption

The paradigm of loyalty has shifted. Choice that was once dominated by a few key voices are now drowned in a sea of whoever gets heard by the most the fastest. Credibility is tantamount to celebrity, and if anything, the internet has a way of mixing and making both happen. The behavior where the reader or viewer chooses the page or channel to go to has shifted towards programs finding ways to get into users social feeds.

Consumers are now quick to judge headlines or titles. If you don’t have their attention in 140 characters, they move on to the next status on their social feed.

This adaptation is simply a natural requirement for news to thrive. It’s necessary to carry on its existence. While you can simply say that for as long as people talk about things that happen, there will always be news. But where and when people talk about things is where all the action now happens.

The Role Of Marketing

Marketing plays a vital role in this age, with its knowledge of how to reach consumers, the understanding of what engages the consumer not only fans the blaze of current events, but makes it directly relevant to the consumer – making news appreciation a first-hand experience that results in opinion, clarification, deeper involvement, and perhaps, change.

This adaptation to the current scenario is not only a challenge for news agencies around the world. Advertising, an industry, aligned closely with marketing, faces the constant challenge of making people aware of brands, ideas, and mechanics while making them  as relevant to consumers’ lives as possible.

The idea of brand talk has shifted: the brands formerly dictating what they were all about now are finding themselves needing to identify what people are talking about and finding a way to get the brand into that conversation.

While the merits of shock and awe are still great, advertising now needs to execute these through day-to-day ideas to get a strong point across. Product placements have lessened the habit of placing its icons front and center, as the lead, but have invaded movie and TV show scripts and product use by characters in fiction, playing supporting roles but with marked presence. It is a development proving even more important now that social media has proven itself yet another vector to master and conquer. The importance of subtlety as a requirement,  next to relevance, was loud and clear. The best example of this was Ellen DeGeneres’ infamous Oscar's selfie where brand clearly understood the trend and crossed over the idea of above the line and online to show how relevant they are for that single purpose. Clever.

How then should news behave?

If you pay close attention to how social circles operate, the main challenge is to engage in as short a time as possible. The six-second rule of yesteryear is gone– the time it takes to click ‘more’ or ‘close’ is  far less than that.

As with traditional media, the headline is still the hook. Get them with the headline, then it’s good. The first paragraph is sold.  Want to read more? Click here. Want to see the full video? Visit this link. Want to review everything ever written or aired about this story, visit the tag below to the archives section. Relevance is a matter of piquing the reader’s interest. The important thing is to let them know what is going on as fast as possible. The consumers’ power of choice and customization is what the news needs to harness in order to draw the ever-shrinking attention span of consumers.

Format is just format

It’s not even a question of format. They can visit sites, get news via email, or just wait for it to be shared by a friend on their social feeds. News will reach them one way or another, but what is necessary is to engage the consumer to act on the news: whether to post a reaction or opinion, a like, and maybe even a share. This  is what gives the news traction, fanning the fires of relevance to his circle and hopefully reaching other like-minded individuals who would appreciate that bit of information.

This evolution in communication is an exercise in democracy. It is not just a practice of power for consumers. It is also an important tool in further shaping, and evolving communication along the lines of more effective ways relevant to the present and open for the future. The slants are in and news can just as well co-exist with other entities like brands, advocacies, and even consumer opinions. This is evolution at work. This is disruption at play. Freedom for everyone.

Brands can be newsmakers too.

The idea that advertising should exist in boxes outside current events or as breaks in between news items is a thing of the past. Sometimes, even brands can find strong relevance and involvement in everyday occurrences. They can work hand in hand with news and they don’t have to be a hard sell. This is not something entirely new, but for purposes of  news keeping its credibility, it has not been something directly pursued– until now.

Sponsored segments in programs have always been a standing practice in advertising. Certain brands have strongly marketed their products’ ideals around good news, advocacies, or fun and light-hearted program topics. This, however, is just scratching the surface. Other brands have been more clever and invasive as far as identifying possible social events that can lead to headlines and take advantage of extra media mileage by being part of the news coverage. There are those in the middle ground,  who simply communicate their stand on certain current events that may involve their brand ideals so strongly that there is no other option but to adopt a position. The commonality lies in what makes brands newsworthy, and the ensuing reports, shareable.

News as a platform

News as a platform for bridging brands and consumers not just make both more relevant— they deepen the relationships between the three sectors. Unlike before when there are clear lines that, when crossed, constitute invasion of protected area, there is no clear invasion for as long as all the parties are clear with their roles, and where their involvement lies.  In truth, it is a study in democracy and communication, providing freshness, honesty and relevance while they disrupt. What consumers see is fresh because it is honest. Most importantly, it’s relevant. This is disruption at work.

What’s next?

With all these in mind, what are the next steps? Are there even any clear steps at all?

Understanding the effects of disruption on the news and its consumers– both the brands and the audience open the floor for creativity when it comes to sharing relevant news and information. For consumers, their engagement becomes a challenge to get involved. For brands, the challenge is to understand people and current events, and using that, find ways to take part in them actively.  For news bodies, the challenge is to make sure that credibility, creativity, and understanding are maintained.  And while the news agencies do have the role of oversight in the process of maintaining integrity, all three sectors share that key equity. Each side must then make sure to educate each other and learn how to harness this idea of involvement in relevance in news.

After all, each of us has the capacity to make things happen, and when people talk about it, read more about it, share it, and form opinion out of it,then we have done our jobs. That’s good news.

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