We kicked off 2018 in style on Tuesday evening, 9 January with our Future Thinking event. Members and their guests found out what the next big things are in the world of media thanks to Rebecca Ironside, Head of Qualitative Research, who forecasted the future with her insightful look at what lies ahead for 2018.
Generously hosted by Which? it was free for members who had renewed their 2018 membership, and just £20 for guests.
6 things every editor needs to know in 2018
In a world swimming with data, should an editor rely on intel or instinct? And just how important is the copy when the audience increasingly craves pictures?
These were just two of the searching questions raised by Rebceca Ironside’s excellent presentation to BSME members on Future Thinking’s media trends to watch in 2018. Here are the key take-outs.
1. Data – the more we know, the less we really know?
Ninety per cent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years, but less than half a per cent of it is used to make decisions. That sounds woefully profligate, but editors have already seen the danger of leaning too heavily on data. Data doesn’t always accurately predict human behaviour - it didn’t predict Brexit or Trump, for example. But how many times since those watershed events have you heard commentators say that those who were out and about speaking with people – around the UK and US – had a better feel for the way those votes would eventually pan out?
Editors always want to know their audience as intimately as possible, and data-mining makes it seem easier than ever to get this insight. But in among all the data, don’t forget the humans. Data’s a great jumping off point - but real conversations, and real understanding of people’s needs and attitudes, are still essential for honing editorial instinct.
2. More pictures, less copy?
[As your art director has undoubtedly said before…]. Are words on the wane and visuals on the up? Our brains have always retained images better than words, and language is certainly becoming more visual. So while the right choice of images has always been important, it’s now vital – even more so for engaging younger audiences. Editors must increasingly spend time curating great images that tell the story, just as much as they do shaping the copy.
3. Get a grip on your real digital rivals
Rivalry between titles and publishers may make the media world go round, but your audience frankly couldn’t care less. Instead, they’re measuring you against all the other brands they interact with digitally – Amazon, BBC, Netflix etc. We’re all competing for the same precious time, attention and revenue, so editors must first identify the broader digital rivals that aim to scratch the same consumer itch, then figure out how to beat them.
4. Nurture your social channels
Social media is increasingly your brand’s shop window, so can you really afford to leave it to one or two more junior members of staff? Readers’ expectations of customer service, conversation and interaction are all on the up, so if you’re pushing out posts to stimulate engagement, make sure you actually engage – don’t start a conversation only to walk away. For publishers, these interactions are too important to be divorced from the brand’s editorial voice, so if you’re not already all over your social output, 2018 is the year to make sure you are…
5. ‘Alexa, how good is my copy?’
With the rise of Alexa (et al), is your title ready for the era of voice and AI? While many consumers are still sceptical about AI as a technology, voice search is already here to stay – be it on your mobile or via Alexa, for example. But the way we speak to our devices is very different to what we type in a search box, so editors and writers must optimise their content for both. According to Future Thinking, 63% of people haven’t yet used voice search, but 16% are using it daily, with younger audiences driving the most growth. Harness the opportunity, or ignore it at your peril.
6. Relate to your readers, whatever the platform
For editors of magazine brands figuring out how their brand will thrive and survive in the digital age, Rebecca says the key is building strong relationships with readers, whatever the platform. Editors and their teams have a major role to play here – understanding the differences between what readers want in print, digital and social, plus audio and video, and varying the approach for each. It’s hard when resources are already stretched, so tightly focused, integrated commissioning is essential for multi-channel success.
Rebecca Ironside (@RebeccaIronside) is Head of Qualitative Research at Future Thinking (futurethinking.com).