A few months ago, colleagues and I had dialogue about the possibility of 'peak web'. Had we reached absolute saturation point where, in mature markets, the ability for audiences to consume media, digital media in particular, had climaxed as a result of both the proliferation of options and the volume of material being generated?
This scenario would see the law of diminishing returns kicking in with respect to investment required to grow audience size.
My news feeds over the holiday period have been notable for two specific and related streams. The first being the uncomfortable realisation from investors that the global start-up darlings of contemporary digital media are rapidly maturing in terms of scale and therefore investment returns along with the concept of 'peak content'.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone who understands the basics of supply and demand. However, what disrupts this most simple economic concept in media markets is the added complication of free versus paid.
In a free media world, scale has become everything and as a result, behaviours are often driven by volume of content over quality in an attempt to dominate attention. This effectively commoditises audiences in terms of value to advertisers and in commodity markets price becomes the ultimate differentiator. In New Zealand we see this manifesting itself through the behaviours of our major news and entertainment media organisations who are undertaking what looks to me like a scorched earth strategy with respect to their brands as they are treated like collateral damage as the war for scale plays out with clickbait the weapon of choice.
The likely outcome of all of this is a flight to quality. Given the over-abundance of options and the diminishing investment in originality and independence by major media organisations, the time is ripe for a fresh approach to media based on a traditional view of the importance of the trusted relationship you have with your readers, listeners or viewers, irrespective of the platform. They may even pay for it.
The green shoots of this are well and truly showing.
- John Baker is the chief executive of Tangible Media.