Coconuts media, who operate in certain Asian capitals that includes Bangkok, recently announced a move into customer subscription services. So rather than the more traditional digital model of free content for consumers with the trade off of serving advertising to them, they would like to now create a paywall where certain articles are paid for. Very bold and at the same time brave.
I can understand their frustrations and plight. They have entered new markets where they are not the media leaders – and this makes it hard to sell advertising – plus the way the market has been going content has been a little sacrificed in order just to drive traffic.
Media too heavily geared in Facebook have found they are at the mercy of Facebooks continual logarithm changes, this means their very business can be compromised in a moments notice by whatever Facebook decide to do next.
Yes Facebook is an important platform for Thaivisa and Inspire media, who I am MD, but we have always been wary of putting all our eggs in one basket and have always invested in wider platforms. Just look at Instagram now and Twitter continues to have a very important role in respects to news based content, even EDMs (eNewsletters) have become cool again by media. EDM has been the foundation of our business for years now.
The trap media has fallen into is following strategies of others and then crying when it goes wrong. Media is no longer about just providing targeted reach for advertisers. We must be pioneers, innovators and prove to advertisers why they should choose us as opposed to just going with a social network to drive exposure (which, by the way, is not without its problems). Our role, as a media partner, for our advertisers is to get results and that comes from being an influencing body too. As one hotelier told me recently “You can have all the reach in the world, but if you cannot influence then what is the point?”.
Look at the global vlogging and blogging phenomena. People respond to real people with real messages. Trip Advisor is testament to that too. The evidence and answers are already there in the market. For me it is a very exciting time to be in media as you need to up your game, not take anything for granted and drive the agenda.
Coconuts have done just that, and although I can emphasis into some of their rationale for making the change – such as not being driven by stupid viral images and Facebooks control on the market – I do not agree altogether with their solution. However I could be proved wrong.
Let me explain. For some time Thaivisas Facebook page has driven new subscribers by its fun video and images from across Thailand. It works. However now all other local media has cottoned on and they do the same too. So what was once fun and enjoyed by users on their Facebook wall now becomes tired and saturated. It is no longer as original or fun as it once was. What you saw only once on Thaivisa you now see duplicated everywhere by others. After all, Thaivisa as a local market leader and we must expect others to copy – it is just how the market works. But when the masses copy it shifts the market and mindsets, and in this case the strategy becomes less effective.
The trick to all this is to stay ahead. The strategy that worked so well today may not work tomorrow. Media needs to realise it is a dynamic fluid market and market forces can influence the end customer in both directions – for better and for worse. I think the funny images and video are increasingly less effective as they become increasingly tired and tedious and used by mass media.
Facebook Strategy is Changing
As a test with Dan About Thailand’s Facebook page I started to post only good images of Thailand, so a move away from what the market does now. It was a differentiation from current market trends and thus has more uniqueness in the market. And, guess what, the market responded in big numbers.
Take the example below, a beautiful image of an elderly lady feeding her dog. I have just over 4,000 followers on my page yet got well over 200 likes. It performed well above all other medias crazy video posts.
Again I tested this strategy with a site I have in the UK – Inspire Kent – and again the engagement and figures were good. The end consumer is fluid and dynamic too and so what worked today will not work tomorrow. This is why pioneers and innovators, like Thaivisa and the likes, can stay ahead of the others as the others choose to copy and not lead.
Media Leaders must never take their position for granted
Whilst in Bangkok I met up with the new MD for Facebook and he told me an interesting story. He said when he first joined Facebook he thought life would be easy, after all they are clear market leaders. In fact it turned out quite the opposite. He said the company was always pushing to innovate, find new ideas and keep their market position. They were top of the tree but hungry to keep this position. No one can ever count their chickens, markets can move in a flash and you must be on top of it.
Give Consumers what they want, well, sometimes
Media must use every ounce of analytical information that digital media can give them to search for emerging trends and changes to the market. We know video is key now – but its also about understanding what type of video should be used for each platform. A square text based micro video on Facebook will not work for Twitter for example.
We must do all we can to understand this market more than ever, as it is changing fast and can be unpredictable. Going back to Coconuts again and their brave and bold new strategy. Can they make the Netflix model work for text based articles? Their consumers have indicated in a survey that they will pay for this content, but will they?
For every 4 or 5 things I try in media, one will work well and the others will have provided that learning useful in helping the next initiative be a success; and that is what they must be called a learning and not a failure.
It is a fascinating market and the truth is no one really knows what is coming up on the horizon. But we must have brave new leaders, like Coconuts, willing to try new strategies and stimulate the market to see how it evolves in order to move forward.