Staff Reporters
Feb 8, 2010

Are consumers really the new media owners?

The public now has greater control than ever before of the media it chooses to consume. With digital platforms and interactivity rife, are traditional media owners redundant? We've asked two digital experts, a PR director and a creative head for their opinion.

Are consumers really the new media owners?

Leonard Chan, director at Pulse Mediatech Limited, says NO

“We are living in a time when almost all traditional media has evolved to some form of new media. You can respond to a TV programme by pressing one of the colour buttons on your remote. You can also visit their official website or your favourite forum to share with the world how good or bad a particular show is.

But does this mean consumers now take full charge of the new media? I don’t think so.

Consumers’ involvement in the new media is just one part of the communication transformation from the traditional one-way, publisher-consumer model to the new three-way model, in which the publisher, the organisation and the individual involved can all contribute their viewpoints.

This communication model has also changed the boundaries of a medium’s influence, which in a way is good for publishers. It offers better CPM and more flexibility to advertisers who want to interact with their audiences. It also means consumers are heard easier, and they become more influential. Those who can best manage the sentiments of this new consumer generated media will succeed.”

Steven Hu, CEO of InGameAd Interactive in China, says NO

“I am convinced that the answer is country-specific so my view is only for China. The new media in China is not so much in content as in various digital forms. By digital forms here, I mean SNS, blogging, digital gaming, and more. In terms of content, as in new media, the vast majority of such content in China is still produced and owned by typical traditional media, such as TV stations and newspaper groups, or imported from overseas. I believe such a situation will remain for many years to come.

In terms of the various digital forms of new media, I would argue that there are as many forms in China as there are elsewhere in the world, if not more. However, do consumers in China help initiate or innovate these new media forms? No. This is another reason why consumers do not own media in China.”

Melvin Yuan, director at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, says YES

“Put it in the context of smartphones and online video; are consumers the new content creators ? Yes they are. But they are not the only ones. When the web democratised information and technology, it provided ordinary citizens with the right hardware and powerful publishing tools, and mass media changed forever. On blogs, forums and social networking sites, unhappy customers rant and fans rave. With affordable and accessible tools like cameras and media sharing sites, they have become better storytellers. Collectively, consumers are omnipresent, nimble and influential. They have mastered the art of reporting, storytelling and publishing.

But so have brands. In the last couple of years, brands have established corporate blogs and a wide array of digital assets on which they engage directly with customers, journalists and all other stakeholders. Customers, who once trusted only traditional media, now read peer reviews and visit corporate blogs to verify the facts.

To succeed, media companies must keep innovating, and seek to engage and collaborate rather than compete for audiences.”

Johan Vakidis, ECD at AKQA Shanghai, says YES

“I think this is a hard one to answer today as the landscape is constantly changing. I say “yes”, but really I mean “yes and no”. To me, it’s absolutely clear that shouting out how good your brand, product or service is, isn’t enough anymore.

I think we can help the consumer create content and eventually own media by inspiring them or providing tools to do just that. I face this every day, trying to convince clients to let go of a little control and put it in the hands of consumers. I think there is a simple way of summing this up, which is: “stop saying, start doing”. From my side, I can only strive to create compelling content and create things that have not been done before. I think traditional media companies will switch on to this phenomenon if they have not already started. Traditional digital companies must wake up too.

An old-school media buy, such as banners and a hosted mini-site is a very ‘yesterday’ type of approach to engage the consumer in the digital space. Mobile and social media is the way to go. Often when I want to get entertained, I opt to open a YouTube or a Youku and consume content that is usually consumer-generated.”

This article was originally published in the 28 January 2010 issue of Media.

Campaign Asia

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