The Future of Media: 10 Trends

The Future of Media: 10 Trends

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It’s no news that the media space is in a state of rapid disruption. We attended Stanford’s “The Future of Media Conference” to investigate the changes in the last year and to discover what’s ahead.

Florencia Prada headshotFlorencia Prada is the Head of Digital Marketing at swissnex San Francisco. She most recently wrote about consumer-led automotive innovation and young entrepreneurs.
Julia Kuhn headshotJulia Kuhn Mirza is Senior Communications Manager at swissnex San Francisco. She is constantly on the lookout for trends in communication technology through her role in The Digital Campus program, which serves 15 higher education institutions in Switzerland.

2013 was full of key media milestones: The entry of successful entrepreneurs into the news business, the meteoric rise of BuzzFeed, and the re-emergence of long-form journalism.

We attended The Future of Media Conference at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business for the second year in a row to explore what’s happening in the media and what’s to come.

The conference boasted a star-studded set of speakers, starting with media entrepreneur and explorer, Chas Edwards of Pop-Up Magazine and the much-awaited California Sunday, and closing with Todd Yellin, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix.

We share 10 takeaways from the day:

  1. The attention span is alive and well. There are a myriad of stats suggesting that news should be delivered in snack-size bites. However, binge-watching “House of Cards” over a weekend and the success of online long-form journalism challenge the myth that we all suffer from ADD. The Pew Research Center study “Future of Mobile News,” found that 73 percent of tablet owners access long-form content either regularly or sometimes; 19 percent do so each day.
  2. Renewed love for the subscription model. While the winning model is still to surface, many panelists declared their love for the subscription model, which has worked for Netflix very well. In fact, it was alluded to several times throughout the conference that the public media model (think NPR) is a good, healthy example of one that works.
  3. Brands are part of the equation. Sponsored and branded content or native advertising seems to be here to stay. Ed Lichty, editor of the much-acclaimed Medium, shared that they expect brand participation to fund good writing on Medium. However, many mentioned that the mere existence of branded content influences pieces before they are even written.
  4. Mobile has displaced TV as the first screen. Now, mobile screens are the ones that matter. Even when we watch content on TV, we are simultaneously checking for commentary and additional information from our personal network. The recent Academy Awards Ceremony took on a life of its own on Twitter.
  5. Television is not dead. The average American watches 34 hours of live television a week, a number that’s held pretty steady the last few years. But new entrants such as Netflix and Hulu are changing the way we consume traditional made-for-TV content. Will the TV of the future provide a better user experience? Are channels outdated? While the exact changes to TV are still fuzzy, it is crystal clear that innovations in the medium are coming to our living rooms soon.
  6. Big events are amplified. Since users are able to watch content any time they want and however they want, big events like the royal wedding are amplified and live on much longer than they would have in the past.
  7. Long-form journalism gains a foothold. Chas Edwards, the opening keynote, emphasized that the best storytelling is the kind that withholds and parses information throughout instead of giving away the most important information in the first 100 words, as is the standard. Case in point: NYT’s Snowfall captivated a huge audience— and a Pulitzer—in 2013.
  8. No algorithm can replace humans. The editors of Flipboard, Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn all professed that despite automation, which makes mass curation possible, only humans have the sensitivity and sense of humor to know (w/o the help of data) whether an article will resonate with readers or not.
  9. Social is driving traffic more than search: Panelists argued that publishers should focus on producing good content and leverage social media to distribute it.
  10. Big data personalization. Todd Yellin showed us again and again how Netflix constantly searches and tests ways to engage their subscribers. Any product innovation is a result of an exhaustive data analysis exercise—not based on the hunch of an individual.

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