The Future of Media is a New Kind of Content: Author Driven

  • by September 30, 2011
Until about five years ago, there well established three-step approach to any media business. First, an editorial team developed content and establishes a brand to attract an audience. Second, that audience was built through promotion and distribution. And finally the audience was monetized with a combination of advertisements, subscriptions, and/or direct sales.

This approach - to have editors assemble and create content to attract an audience to a destination, could be called editorially driven content. Media companies built brands, and editors were the stewards of the audience.

Around the millennium, Google's algorithmic approach not only destroyed the ability to control margins through distribution, it also led to a second kind of content: Intention driven content . Pioneered by around 2002 and expanded by sites like Associated Content and Demand Media, this content was based on the stated intent of searchers, rather than editors. This content monetized relatively well, and helped drive a content explosion that further impacted the economic viability of advertising driven businesses.

But neither of these types of content models will be viable much longer. Increasingly, we neither trust editors to tell us what we should read, nor are we trusting Google to give us the best results. Instead we are trusting our friends, and we are trusting specific individuals: authors.

We are beginning to see the emergence of a third kind of content: author driven content. Author driven content had its roots in blogging, where creators began to connect directly with their audience without an editor as an intermediary. Aggregators like Matt Drudge began to highlight specific writers, rather than their publishing parents. And Twitter and Facebook Subscriptions have accelerated the trend -- we are quickly moving to a world driven by individual authors controlling their own audiences...and those audience are movable. Consider this "blog", the Future of Media. No one writing here is a "Future of Media writer." And furthermore, we are all bringing our own audiences to this site.

As platforms and sites have proliferated, readers are becoming accustomed to following talented creators regardless of location, domain, or platform. While some "Publishers" may survive as aggregators and curators of content -- authors and creators will ultimately begin to control their audiences -- and they will develop new ways to capture that value.

Consider Google's recent decision and statement around its "rel=author" tag: "We know that great content comes from great authors, and we're looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results." We know social media is a natural fit for author driven content -- but even Google is saying that search results will soon be author driven.

So...If authors control the audiences online, and audiences will follow them regardless of brand or domain, what does that mean for the Future of Media? Briefly consider who actually pays for audiences...the brands.

The biggest impact on the media business in the next ten years will be that brands will begin to compete directly with publishers and broadcasters over who will support author driven media. And if brands compete with publishers directly for an author's audience, brands will inevitably win. Partially because brands are willing to pay more than publishers for the same audience, but mostly because brands will shift their advertising budgets away from publishers and toward the development and aggregation of author driven content.

Andrew Boer, President, MovableMedia

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