Over the past few weeks we have seen a watershed moment for social media: it is turning into a news service. Here we look at the latest changes in the space and predict what might be happening to how Americans consume their news.
Social media and news have always been joined at the hip in that they are both about immediacy, authenticity, and especially opinion. Any experienced journalist knows that even the best intentions and a common set of facts will be presented differently by different outlets. Just think about some of the top news brands and the expectations of how they will report on similar events: BBC, CNN, Fox, Al Jazeera.
Social is essentially news with the opinion filter expanded and the quality controls removed. I’ve always said that everyone is a celebrity if you reduce the audience sufficiently (think of a baby with its new parents) and social media used as news is simply the overlap of these billions of micro-audiences into a fluid and dynamic whole.
Social channel updates
Recent updates to the social platforms have highlighted the importance they place on news. Here are the updates in the nutshell.
Twitter Lightning is a project to allow non-members to read their breaking news on the platform without an account. This looks like Twitter’s answer to stalled user numbers. For advertisers the result might be that they simply don’t care if the eyeballs on the service belong to Twitter or not, as long as they get their message out to the right people. Targeting should be easy enough with all the rich data Twitter will have on user actions via, admittedly short-lived, cookies.
But, as of today advertisers need to be active on the channel to advertise and the offerings are targeted to gaining engagement. There is an option for pointing to external websites but we suspect that new ad formats will be announced before Lightning becomes a reality that will give advertisers more flexibility for pointing at external web properties even if they don’t have accounts on the platform. This will be a big benefit for healthcare marketers who already use the Facebook in a similar way.
YouTube Newswire is a channel devoted to first person accounts of stories. Pretty much anyone with a cellphone will be able to get their report onto the channel. This is a video version of CNN’s iReport service for citizen journalism and has the potential to give the nightly TV news a run for its money as the “YouTube generation” dumps their cable connections and increasingly goes “over the top” (OTT) to access news, including video broadcasts, online.
Instagram Search is getting a facelift that accentuates discovery. This is less like the hourly news and more like a magazine, slower paced and more visual. The browse shows how this is transforming the linear stream of images into a topic-based browse experience:
This company has been in talks with Twitter to be acquired with deal details valuing the private company at the $1 billion mark. The flipboard experience is already one that takes the user’s social streams and presents them in a beautiful, scannable, and compelling way. It was also approached by Google in 2011 but rejected the offer (Google threatened to build a better Flipbook but that never materialized).
News is Going Social
There’s no doubt, news is going social. Even if Gen-X and Boomers don’t give up their cable TVs (and we think they’ll drop them the instant the online experience is as good as cable) the Millennials are “aging in” and are already getting their news on social:
Marketers and PR professionals in healthcare, and especially biopharma, need to recognize this sea change and get on the channels where their audience is (starting) to get most of its news.