Media firms should look to retailers for a glimpse of the future

I’m becoming more convinced that the media industry should look to the retail world for ideas on how technology will shape its future.

I was recently asked to write an article for a media website called TheMediaBriefing, the essence of which was that the internet is not simplistically killing print publications, but instead technology is fragmenting media delivery and content consumption into a growing multitude of channels. The secret to success will be understanding which channels – web, print, video, blogs, social media, etc – are relevant to your readers.

Today I also read an article written for Computer Weekly’s Buyer’s Guide to retail IT by Forrester Research analyst Brian Walker, in which he described the challenge of e-commerce for retailers with the phrase, “Today’s internet is actually a splinternet.”

Walker wrote, “Consumers have more access points and technology at their disposal than ever before, demanding convenience, choice, and variety in their shopping experiences. Companies need to continue to shift spending to enable the online channels or risk losing out to their competitors.

“Yet, in the future, e-commerce will no longer be about the web browser. The web browser will be just one of many touchpoints that brands, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors will need to support to maximise transactions with customers. Already, an average of 3% of e-commerce revenue is coming from mobile web browsers and applications on smartphones such as the iPhone and Android powered devices.”

Substitute “media” for “e-commerce” in that statement and you wouldn’t be far from the situation that publishers are facing.

Increasingly, content is just another item that people look to consume. In the new tech-enabled world, The Times is not just competing with The Telegraph or The Guardian – it’s competing with eBay, Facebook and World of Warcraft for consumer / reader attention and time.

That is an entirely different relationship than the traditional news stand, where typically a reader has already made decision to purchase a paper or magazine, and the challenge for publications is to be the one they buy.

The media industry still has a long way to go to fully grasp how it will continue to make money in a world of multiple technology-enabled platforms, but it could do worse than turn to retailers for examples of how the future is going to look.

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