Interview mit Kevin Anderson zur "Future of Context"

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson ist unser Keynote-Speaker beim kommenden Social Media FORUM – er ist einer der führenden Medienköpfe Großbritanniens und hat sowohl für die BBC als auch den Guardian gearbeitet. Im Interview klärt er einige Hintergründe und Herausforderungen zum Konferenzschwerpunkt rund um den "Future of Context".

1) Kevin, as an expert for new digital media strategies you will be giving a talk on the "future of context" at the upcoming Social Media FORUM on Sept 28. Can you give three keywords that describe what we can expect from your talk?

Relevance, insight, value

2) Is "context" the turning key for the misled strategies of media companies in the Internet? And if so what is the explanation?

First I should say, as much as everyone in the industry wishes it, there are no silver bullets, no single solution that will solve the problems that media companies are facing. The iPad won’t save us. Paywalls won’t save us, and simply finding ways to increase context won’t on its own save us.
That being said, most current digital media strategies are fundamentally flawed. They are mostly based on the premise that internet really is just another distribution medium like radio, television and print. They rely on a media landscape of scarcity instead of abundance. These outdated assumptions are rooted in the era of mass media. In 20th Century mass media models, which relied on just a few sources of information and entertainment, success relied upon building the biggest audience possible and using paid content and advertising to make loads of money.
As Edward Roussel of the Telegraph (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2010/feb/03/telegraph-website-stop-chasing-hits), said, the link between rising audience and higher returns was true until the spring of 2008. Then something happened. Yes, it was partly due to the recession, but it is also due to an oversupply of online advertising space. As Paid Content says, premium and mid-tier publishers are creating too much content and cannot find enough ads to run against that content. As in any market, if supply outstrips demand then you have downward price pressures.
There are exceptions. With the online advertising recovery, The Daily Mail in the UK has been able to outgrow the competition and translate that into commercial success. Big still sometimes wins. There are still lucrative verticals such as business in which returns have stood up or actually grown during the recession. The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and The Financial Times are all enjoying success, partly due to increasing interest in business and finance due to the recession. However, most other publishers find themselves under severe pressure.
To change our fortunes, we first need to question the assumptions underlying 20th Century media business models. Until the 1980s, both audiences and advertisers had fewer choices and media owners could charge monopoly rents for advertising. But when the multi-channel world, whether broadcast or online, arrived, the media’s first reaction was to create more channels and content to try to take advantage of increased distribution opportunities. We’re now seeing the limits of such an approach as the law of diminishing returns takes hold.
Context is about adding value to content in ways that benefit audiences and advertisers. It makes it easier for audiences to find and make sense of relevant content. Adding context, rather than simply creating more content, is about realising that content is no longer scarce, but audiences’ time and attention is. It helps advertisers by providing opportunities for more highly targeted advertising.

3) But this strategy means allocating resources for producing context? Isn’t this against the recent strategies of media companies that are just cutting costs because of the "lousy pennies" of online advertising?

While media companies, especially newspapers, have been cutting staff to cut costs, they have also been creating more content (http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/the_hamster_wheel.php). Digital production techniques make this possible but, again, we’re starting to reach the limits of that strategy. Basically, we have an oversupply of content driving an oversupply of digital advertising space, and traditional markets have one way of valuing a surplus: returns plummet.
The market is already flooded and the last thing we need is more content. A study commissioned by the Associated Press (link pdf) found that young audiences were shutting off because they were lost in a deluge of episodic updates. The key conclusion was: "The subjects were overloaded with facts and updates and were having trouble moving more deeply into the background and resolution of news stories." In essence, the news industry is acting against its own economic interest by producing more content and exacerbating the problem of information overload. It’s like trying to save a drowning man by giving him a glass of water.
We need a much more focused approach. Allocating resources to producing context around existing content while making strategic choices about what not to produce will create opportunities by adding value and creating differentiated products. Yes, we live in a world of flow, with constant streaming updates, but mining that flow for context and value-added information will be where sustainable business models are.

4) So putting the weight on the "context" – what are the formats and examples of this strategy?

Thomson-Reuters has a service called Calais. It analyses thousands of mainstream media and non-traditional sources of information every day. It powers services such as Zemanta, which allows bloggers and traditional journalists to easily add images and links, which add context, to articles. As a platform, Thomson-Reuters can sell Calais to enterprises to make sense of the data and information they create, but it’s also a tool the company itself uses to algorithmically find meaning in the flow of information from traditional and non-traditional news organisations, e.g. finding new companies to watch before they show up on the traditional news radar.
One of my favourite examples right now is Sunlight Foundation’s Politigraft (http://poligraft.com/). Using public information about political contributions and a service like Calais, they reveal details about donors and major campaign contributions to members of Congress. It quickly adds a layer of context in any story involving political leaders.
The Guardian is achieving some great things with their Datablog (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog) and Datastore (http://www.guardian.co.uk/data-store). Data is a key part of many stories that journalists write everyday, but in the past, the only thing we with did with those numbers was highlight a few. Now, the Datablog not only allows everyone to see the full set of numbers, but by hosting them on Google Docs for others to download, people with skills in data visualisation are able to present these numbers in new and creative ways. The Guardian has a group on Flickr to allow them to highlight their work. (http://www.flickr.com/groups/guardiandatastore/)
The BBC also had another great example during the World Cup this year. They called it dynamic semantic publishing (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/07/bbc_world_cup_2010_dynamic_sem.html), and it took the official FIFA statistics to dynamically create a rich store of information about players, teams and groups. Not only was it a rich presentation of the facts around the World Cup, but it also helped their audience discover BBC coverage of their favourite teams and players.

5) If you take a look ahead in the future – what kind of media companies are able to adapt to that strategy?

The kind of companies that have been able to adapt to this strategy have been ones that see beyond traditional containers of content. For news, they realise that the written story is no longer the atomic unit, the indivisible unit, of journalism. There is data and context within the story, context that can be linked and used to draw connections between seemingly unrelated events in our increasingly complex world. Context is not just about adding value to pieces of content, but it also helps make it easier to organise and add news ways for audiences to find and discover what is relevant and interesting to them.

Article written by

Bjoern Negelmann

Als Head of Conferences & Content bei Kongress Media zeichnet Björn Negelmann für die Inhalte der Konferenzen und Informationsportale verantwortlich.

15 Responses

  1. socmediaforum
    socmediaforum at | | Reply

    gebloggt: spannendes Interview mitzum “Future of Context” http://bit.ly/bRoJcZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Social Media Forum: My thoughts on the future of context
    [...] Next week, I’ll be giving the keynote at the Social Media in Hamburg, and I’ve been asked to speak about the future of context. Bjoern Negelmann asked me a few questions via email about the subject, and he’s kindly allowed me to cross-post the interview for the Social Web World blog. [...]
  3. acquisa
    acquisa at | | Reply

    Das #Internet ist mehr als nur ein weiterer Nachrichtenkanal. Interview mit Kevin Anderson http://bit.ly/9ILl1e #socialmedia

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. socmediaforum
    socmediaforum at | | Reply

    @tknuewer was haelst Du von’s Aussagen zur Kontext-Strategie für Medien? http://bit.ly/bRoJcZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. blogschau
    blogschau at | | Reply

    The last thing we need is more content –> http://tinyurl.com/38a5q37

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. B_Rebelein
    B_Rebelein at | | Reply

    Interview mit Kevin Anderson zur “Future of Context” http://bit.ly/cVa426

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  7. tknuewer
    tknuewer at | | Reply

    Höchst lesenswertes Interview mitzu Verlagsstrategien im digitalen Zeitalter (via @socmediaforum) http://bit.ly/bRoJcZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. meistermeise
    meistermeise at | | Reply

    Context anstatt noch mehr Content: Kevin Anderson (@Kevglobal) zur Zukunft des Publishings. http://bit.ly/downoJ (via @tknuewer)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. benutzerfreund
    benutzerfreund at | | Reply

    Interview mzu Verlagsstrategien im digitalen Zeitalter. Anfang sehr platt, doch lesenswert (via @tknuewer) http://bit.ly/bRoJcZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. notizblog - Weblog der Social Web WORLD: Die “lebende” Geschichte mit sozialem Kontext als Zukunftsstrategie für Medien?
    [...] Nachgang zum Interview mit Kevin Anderson bin ich heute morgen über ein interessantes Video mit Jay Rosen gestolpert, in dem der NYU [...]
  11. christopherKrug
    christopherKrug at | | Reply

    SOCIAL WEB WORLD: Interview mit Kevin Anderson zur “Future of Context” http://bit.ly/bCFM7s

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. Echterhoff_und
    Echterhoff_und at | | Reply

    The last thing we need is more content –> http://tinyurl.com/38a5q37 (via @blogschau)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. Journalists’ identity as a barrier to tech adoption
    [...] been helping to frame the discussion ahead of the conference, and after our interview by email and blog, he’s posted a follow-up looking at possible evolution of Google’s Living Stories [...]
  14. Content und Context, Teil 2 | netkubik
    [...] Ein Zitat aus einem Interview im Vorfeld des Social Media FORUMs hat es mir angetan: Context is about adding value to content in ways that benefit audiences and advertisers. It makes it easier for audiences to find and make sense of relevant content. Adding context, rather than simply creating more content, is about realising that content is no longer scarce, but audiences’ time and attention is. Kevin Anderson [...]

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