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It’s the package not the platform

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It’s the package not the platform

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The digitisation of media has led to a power shift in the producer/publisher relationship.

Marshall McLuhan famously pointed out in 1964 that the medium is the message, and 45 years later it’s possible to say that the message is the medium, or that it’s the package not the platform.

Prior to the easy digitisation of media it was the publishers, television and radio networks, and record companies who were in control. They owned the medium and decided what to publish, how much to charge and how much to pay the producers of their content. The media definitely called the shots.

Today we have a situation where the costs of publication are much lower and the lines are blurring between various media – now it’s all about the package rather than the platform. 

Musicians can record their music in home studios and release it independently, bypassing record companies and maximising their profits from sales. A wine retailer, like Gary Vaynerchuk, can start a video blog site and use his exuberant personality to build a considerable national, and international audience. A budding writer, like Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour Work Week, can start a blog, build an audience, transfer that to a book launch, public speaking tours, media appearances and international fame.

Comedy duo Hamish and Andy are prime examples of a package that traverses media platforms. The TODAY Network Drive time team can be seen and heard on radio, online, on various television shows from Rove to Spicks and Specks to Thank God You’re Here. They’re a multi-media package. 

Their main employers, Austereo have been clever enough to recognise this and promote the ‘package’ across various formats. Hamish and Andy can be heard across the TODAY radio network, via podcasts and live-streaming online. They have a dedicated web page through the TODAY Network website with plenty of video content, galleries. There’s the Hamish and Andy iPhone app, Facebook site and Twitter address. Hamish even writes a monthly column for Cosmopolitan.

For a radio duo, Hamish and Andy certainly manage to have a rather full media presence. If their Austereo contract was ever torn up, the boys could conceivably manage to power on regardless producing content of their own and working with multiple media outlets – radio is now merely the starting point for the Hamish and Andy package.

In fact, it seems that Austereo have acknowledged the fact that the digitisation of media is removing the barriers for entry across the board. A look at their plans for the next few years reveals that this radio broadcasting group is moving towards a much broader multi-media output. They are rapidly packaging up their programs and content to be accessed in various media and formats. With video increasingly being used on their websites, the demarcation lines between traditional media are becoming very blurry.

Likewise, Sydney journalist Melissa Hoyer has carved out a new multi-platform career after 20 years in print. No longer beholden to one master, Hoyer has regular style/travel columns in Australian Traveller magazine, writes for magazines like Grazia and Vogue, has written for The Australian Media section, online for News.com.au and host events all over the country for lifestyle, fashion and beauty brands. She is a constant media and social commentator on radio, news and TV current affairs shows on Nine, Seven, Foxtel and a regular on Sky News’ weekly news and current affairs ‘180′ panel show.

Hoyer uses her blog and Twitter identity to keep in touch and publish thoughts and news as they happen. The Melissa Hoyer brand has been packaged up and can be found online, offline and most media touchpoints in between.

“I think there is an inevitability of having to embrace new media and other forms of traditional methods if you are planning on surviving, long-term, in the media. A newspaper columnist, was once exactly that. Nothing else was expected of you. Newer journos to the game are now often required to go on a job with a video (and we’re not talking a huge TV crew) but with a video and a mic, on his/her own and record their own story,” says Hoyer.

Hoyer says she was fortunate – as a one-time newspaper journalist she started to hone some TV skills when asked to appear as a commentator on various news/current affairs programmes in the mid-90s. That went on to her being able to create a TV programme for Foxtel whilst retaining her newspaper journalist role.

“Over the last five years, I have learnt that integration in differing mediums is extremely important in this current market and financial climate.”

“By ‘branding’ yourself as being able to write news story, do a ‘grab’ for a TV news programme, talk on radio, Twitter, Facebook, blog and shoot a story for an online video are all imperative, particularly in my line of reporting – style, fashion, celebrity – all of which are highly visual subjects,” explains Hoyer.

Hoyer feels that to be able to work across a number of platforms is just par for the course, and in doing so, you are being seen by a wider range of demographics too. So that can only ‘up’ the branding factor of any media member who chooses to make themselves and their expertise a brand.

Austereo aside, it seems that not many media outlets in Australia fully appreciate the shifting media landscape – it presents problems as well as opportunities. While some of their talent migrates to roving multi-media roles, the press and television industries in particular seem more concerned with keeping eyeballs on their existing platforms than exploring how to package up content to be viewed over alternative platforms.

In the US, cable sports station ESPN now has an online version called ESPN360. They consider it a full-fledged TV network that is delivered through the internet. ESPN360 is covering 3,500 live events this year and have more than 25 rights deals with various sports, and so far has 24 million subscribers. It also has an iPhone app that allows fans to keep up to date with the latest live sports scores from around the world.

At ESPN, rather than digging in to defend its original cable TV format, it embraced the opportunities and talk about ‘best-available screen’. It realised that the content can be packaged up and distributed across multiple platforms.

Inevitably advertisers are also beginning to realise that they can take part in the new media world with out having to be dictated to by traditional media rules. The relatively low cost of entry to online means that a company can set up their own multi-media sites that are well optimised to deliver targeted audience. Video and audio can be produced inexpensively and uploaded immediately – the right package can result in a large dedicated audience.
This is not restricted to major brands either. In fact, smaller companies now have the opportunity to carve out their own media space without being limited to 30-second messages.

A small New Jersey wine retailer called Wine Library launched a website a few years ago and began pumping out daily videos of wine reviews aimed at the common man. Hosted by enthusiastic owner Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library TV has become a phenomenon attracting a vast daily audience of wine enthusiasts and seeing the business grow rapidly from approx $3 million to $60 million per annum. Vaynerchuk has become his own media outlet and his business is enjoying the benefits.

Will Australian media soon realise that it’s now about the package, not the platform, or will they be swamped by thousands of budding multi-media broadcasters?

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