The Shifting Values in Digital Media

If the 80-90s were marked by overt capitalism and indiscreet pursuit of wealth, the recession of 2008-09 marks a millennial shift to a new, more humble and deliberate form of business. While “owning it” used to be about Wall Street bonuses and “bigger is better” greed, today “owning it” has taken on a different tone. People’s priorities have come into focus and they recognize that business is about more than just flashy material accumulation, entitlement and narrowly defined success. We see this new era marked by passion, trust and authenticity. Trust and authenticity may not be the first qualities that come to mind, when you think of news and politics, but perhaps they should be. Many of the top political and news sites in the Digital Influence in News and Politics Report have succeeded in part because of their understanding of this value shift and the way in which they address it: by becoming trusted leaders in an area they carve out for themselves, be it a certain audience/demographic, multimedia, methodology, or tone of voice. The new digital age has furthered the ability of these sites to affect influence, rapidly and deeply. In a time of savvy and distrustful consumers, having a sincere personality and stance on a specialized area will be a competitive brand differentiator and will in turn yield both attention and profits. Outlined below are three tips for helping your company “own” a strategic category, as evident in the top digital news/political influencers we have identified: 1. Stay true to core. Staying true to core is about offering a digital experience– be it visually provocative, innovative multimedia or other– that authentically represents the brand’s essence. When consumers go to npr.com, for example, they know they can expect news closely integrated with multimedia audio applications. A menu bar across the top of the npr.com site prominently features “listen”, “hourly news” (with audio symbol) and “podcast” tabs (see below). A quick look at the “most popular” site of the day is aptly titled “Exclusive First Listen: The Avett Brothers” and the second most popular article is entitled “Growing up the iPod way”, also featuring music/listening content (9/22/09). The NPR site allows users to “own it” through customized playlists which allow users to have a personal connection with the brand, important when we are upholding the principles of authenticity and trust. True to its radio heritage, auditory news is central to NPR’s mission and what drives passionate consumers to its digital site and scores it 10 of the top 100 podcasts. 2. Listen to the people. Sometimes being a leader, is simply knowing when to listen to and promote others. Google’s news approach embodies this principle. Google’s area of differentiation is being an aggregator: “Aggregated headlines and a search engine of many of the world’s news sources.” Google news is a one stop shop that works because it provides the most relevant content across the web, not just daftly offering up their personal opinion on every topic. Google has access to countless news articles, blogs and stories and offers value by filtering them and prioritizing them based on content volume and pagerank. People trust Google’s algorithmic approach to choose and aggregate the news that is most relevant to them– be it a mainstream press release or more niche topic served up off the “longtail.” This trust, simplicity and consumer-friendly attitude is central to Google’s brand. Google news is a leader and influencer because it listens to what people are asking for and knows how to answer to it. 3. Membership has its value. The digital influencers have learned that standing out from a crowd really helps you stand out to the crowd. What this means is that rather than boiling the ocean and trying to blindly appeal to everyone, successful news and political sites are serving up distinct opinions aimed at discrete target audiences. The hope is to really capture that particular market and then become the go to source for those outside...

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