Changing media landscape
The arrival of social networking holds immediate implications for media use. Mobile browsing, on smart phones, has placed computing power and access into the hands of a massive number of Namibians. Those who are not yet reached will be, as groups such as Nokia, HTC and Chinese brands place cheap smart phones within reach. The only major barrier at this point is the cost of mobile bandwidth.
Print is the most vulnerable medium at present. Within social networks, news can be disseminated rapidly, and the commenting is highly interactive. In other words raw information can be spread and discussed without the intermediate steps of writing, editing and going to print.
Print will die back. General print news will be first, followed by more specialist print news. This does not spell the end for journalism and publication. It will however require evolution on the part of news publishers and marketing and other communicators, to ensure that revenue levels and reach are maintained.
In terms of revenue to print mediums, the immediate losses will be purchasing of physical paper, loss of display advertisement revenue as sales shrink and loss of classified advertisements.
In the latter regard, regular users of Facebook will be aware of many communities that engage in a form of classified advertising. The groups are extremely lively. In most cases responses are virtually immediate. As the genie is out of the bottle that revenue will peter out in future.
The sale of printed editions can also be expected to die back. Online subscription may be a method of replacing revenue from sales of printed editions, however this will inevitably not be a successful strategy in light of the fact that there is free news.
The loss of revenue might be offset by losing the expense of the print run and the associated equipment and fixed assets and, unfortunately, the staff required to run things.
This leaves the question of display advertising. How can news publishers justify the cost of reporting? And how can advertisers get their messages across?
The two immediate solutions are clearly visible on most major news sites. Firstly, on entry, it is quite possible to display an ad for a certain number of seconds before the page becomes visible. This can be done with our without a click. In other words, the handheld and / or computer monitor become display mediums.
Secondly, with streaming media such as internet radio and video inserts, it is equally possible to preface the medium with an insert. On some Youtube videos, and many video clip news items, this is already standard practice. Before you set eyes on the news item, you have to watch the ad.
This implies that advertising will have to evolve to the new paradigm by producing media that is suitable for these purposes, and so will current news providers. Advertisers will have to rapidly abandon fears of television advertising, as this will become the new normal on Internet media.
The reason I say this is because an advertisement that contains motion and sound is more effective than a silent, motionless advert. Those advertisers who cannot adapt will have less effective messages, and those advertising houses who service them will have to lead the way.
The important note here is that media owners will still have the same media set, but combined within one device: electronic print, voice and visual. The question is will media owners choose to spread their product offerings across all three or will it be a single means. My estimation is that the media house which offers all three will be the top dog.
This will all have to operate within the confines of a mobile display, and wsill also have to work within the context of social media. There is breathing room, based on the cost of bandwidth, however this is limited. As economies of scale are reached, more Namibian media consumers will make the change.