The world is an ever-changing place – and with it, the media landscape will continue to change in 2011, says Mzi Malunga, managing director of BDFM, publisher of Business Day and the Financial Mail.
The touchstone is digital media, and the immediacy and wealth of information it represents, he says. This presents significant challenges to more traditional media such as newspapers, which have to change with the times if they are to retain and attract readers, as well as generate advertising revenue.
For Malunga, the key to unlocking the full potential of publishing in 2011 is content – unique, high-quality and audience-specific content that consumers are willing to pay for. And publishers will have to be strategic to in what they take from print into the digital space.
While the rules of business have remained unchanged in the past two decades, and business imperatives remain the same for publishers, he argues, the patterns of consumption have undergone a radical shift.
Thanks to digital media, people can read about what happened today, today, instead of having to wait for tomorrow. Newspapers thus have to focus on what will happen next, rather than what has happened, in order to remain relevant.
So what will the overarching media publishing trends be for this year?
· Online readers should expect to begin paying for what they view, but not news, which is will continue to be widely and freely available on many sources globally. “Paid-for content will be a reality,” says Malunga. “The new thinking in media is that free media, except news, will be a thing of the past. And people will pay for unique, high-quality content.”
· Advertising spend will not be generated online by simply replicating print content. More effort will have to be expended on creating unique content for both the digital and print platforms
· In South Africa, which is in a unique position because major websites are owned websites by publishers, there is opportunity to make the two forms of media more complementary.
· More niche media will continue to be created. In an era when advertising spend is diminishing in real terms, the way to attract advertisers will be to demonstrate more narrowly-defined audiences, and thus more focused advertising opportunities. “The future is niche,” says Malunga
· Social media will continue to challenge conventional news-gathering, and shape the way journalists do their jobs, but it will not replace journalists. “People won’t pay for it, because it’s not unique – and it is not professionally produced. If you need to make a serious decision, you will need more than your friends and fans to do so.”
“The world has changed. You can’t talk about publishing any more – it’s content provision,” declares Malunga. “And I am in the business of providing quality business content.”