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The Nigeria media: Evolution, trends and projections for 2018 – Part 2

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Okusaga

Digital technologies have opened-up the world and created a new set of young people.

Young news-consumers are a breed of worldly exposed, outspoken, and creative young people who can create their own stories right from the comfort of their personal spaces and are not waiting for the traditional media’s permission to release it to the world.

The young news-consumer understands the power of social media and other news-applications and can create blogs on special interest and court sizeable following while becoming a centre of influence on their own terms.

Aside from new technologies, which has evened the space and created easier access to news and information, a new culture and social contract has also emerged, different from the old culture and contract which was defined by linear communication and passive participation, to one that is driven by interactivity and active participation of the young news-consumer.

The young news-consumer is no longer interested in just reading, listening and watching alone, he wants to be at the centre and driver’s seat of news creation.

Urged on by the freedom created by new technologies, young news-consumer are also making their own news and building their own content without waiting for traditional news institutions to use it.

Social Media communities and content syndicators and aggregators are daily springing up to give vent to the voice of this generation as they strive for self-expression rather than media approval of their creative output.

The rise of social media, blogging, downloading and content, news bulletin boards, chat forums and communities has brought onboard a new culture and set of values, never before seen until the advent of the digital age.

The young news-consumer, growing up in this age, has moved mindset from competition to cooperation. From a ‘Me’ perspective to a ‘We’ perspective underscored by big-data possibilities developed out of the emergent sharing economy – moving from an old individualist perspective to a collective mindset.

In this milieu, the traditional media needs to change its business model to adapt to changes not just in technologies but also in culture and media consumption habits. In adapting to change and staying at the cutting edge of the emergent media industry, the forward looking and future oriented media organisation needs to make the following changes:

Become Platform Agnostic rather than a Platform Purist
The news media organisation can no longer stick to platform purity and be defined either as a print newspaper, a radio station or television news channel. The model has got to change from a static to a dynamic positioning in terms of platform and distribution models. The way to go is to integrate traditional, web and mobile distribution of news in the newsroom value-chain.

For starters, a newspaper can be produced using newsprint, but must also have a very strong online presence – with on-demand voice and audio-visual content which is either paid for or freely distributed using the social media and digital applications with an integrated news-room which creates a 24 hour chain and presence with resources available to manage the news experience by courting user generated content through allowing the consumer become an active news source or responding to questions and enquiries on the go.

Establishing a Minute-by-Minute News Desk and Realigning the Structure of the News Operation around a Continuous and Unbroken News Cycle
The business model must borrow the cable news model and the news-room must be transformed from one that captures static news to one that operates on a minute-by-minute basis, given today’s fast-paced, round the clock lifestyle and the young voracious appetite for news on-the-go by young news-consumers.

Creation of a Creative Content Hub that transforms Content into a variety of Expressions.
Tapping into today’s news-room value chain takes being malleable with content options and being able to do it as swiftly as possible.

In today’s context, the delivery of content isn’t consigned to a particular period of day or week, as is the case in the traditional news-room. Media convergence is driving the delivery of per second news content to variety of channels targeted at a variety of interests and demographics on-the-go and not just a static delivery model which recognises and accepts a particular kind of content, delivered through a particular conduit at a particular time of day.

Media convergence is driving instantly available content with bespoke platform and content options tailored to the consumer’s news taste, needs and schedule.

One of the cardinal points to note on the use of digital channels is the need to manage user experience – this requires a combination of platform design and content optimisation. It is often said that the medium determine the content type. The move towards platform agnosticism, with the demand being the use of various distribution channels for the upgrading of user experience, cannot be achieved without a diversity of content types.

Innovation within the content space has therefore been largely driven by the continued digitization of content, the consequence being the need for content, not only to suit the digital space, but to also cater to various demographics and interests within that space. Beyond this, is the need to redefine the use of content in order to capture interest and hold the news-consumer’s imagination.

In capturing the interest of young news-consumers under an Omni-channel strategy, news-gathering must be under-pinned with a variety of creative content opportunities from graphic to info-graphics, audio-visual to cartoons, 3D expressions and Animations – sometimes personalising content or introducing virtual reality – in order to capture attention and interest.

CONCLUSION: MEDIA PROLIFERATION, CLUTTER, STANDARDISATION AND COMPETITION WITHIN THE DIGITAL SPACE
One of the challenges of the digitization of the news-media is the question of the management of proliferation and clutter given the difficulty of licensing, regulation and standardisation within that space. Regulation of the digital media space has been a very touchy subject given the need to maintain press freedom and individual liberty.

However, the subject continues to come to fore as a result of ongoing public interest arguments around the issue of fake-news, slander and libel that has recently dogged the digital news space.

Coming from centuries of practice of traditional media, the principal targets of media regulation are the press, radio and television – extending to movies and music, but largely leaving out the digital space.

The European Union, looking at a balanced approach to regulating the digital media space without censorship substituted media ownership conventions with competition laws. These laws are created by each member state of the European Union to protect consumers from unethical practices while allowing the media its right to freely disseminate news and information and maintaining fair competition. However, these laws have, thus far, been unable to resolve the problem of convergence and concentration of media as this creates a hold on the news-consumer and society.

The convergence of media ownership in the hands of large players may result in media dictatorship and be an abuse on civil liberties rather than being a bulwark for freedom of expression.

Even though the media already strives for self regulation around ethical subjects such as balance and listening to both sides of an argument in pursuit of public interest, the concentration of news resources and platforms in the hand of big organisations with huge following may overtime introduce complex dynamics into media rights and regulation and create problems for other interests that are at variance with the dominant interest of the media organisation.

In Nigeria there has been surreptitious push by political interests to curtail the power of digital and Omni-channel news-media, but a lot of the arguments raised do not border on public interest but on narrow interests which are widely resisted. Be that as it may, Omni-channel media can at once be a blessing and a problem depending on the side of the ethical argument one takes.

On the one hand, Omni-channel media has helped to extend the frontiers of press freedom and the democratisation of information – reflecting a diversity of views as well as informing and educating news-consumers. On the other hand, Omni-channel news media have been used to spread fake news and exercise undue influence over politics and business with the consequence being the distortion of facts and the advancement of inordinate interests and ambitions.

Beyond the arguments on ethics, regulation and competition, it is clear that the game has changed; and that the long-term survival of the news-media in Nigeria resides in the creation of various vents and access by media organisations for an ever demanding news-consumer who wants news on their own terms, in their personal space and at any time of the day.

Okusaga is the Managing Consultant of Precise, a reputation design company based in Lagos Nigeria


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