The fu­ture of me­dia is al­ready here and it’s mo­bile video

An in­ter­view with Eric Scherer

The Insider - - FRONT PAGE - By Gayle Moss

If we thought pub­lish­ing was un­set­tled by the in­ter­net, then watch out what hap­pens over the next five years – mo­bile is tak­ing over the world and it’s tak­ing video with it.

• Zenith, a Publi­cis Me­dia agency fore­casts that 75% of in­ter­net ac­cess will be on a mo­bile a de­vice in 2017.

• Video is ex­pected to ac­count for 70% of mo­bile traf­fic within the next five years, fu­elled by faster 4G roll­outs, LTEAd­vanced up­grades that de­liver 5G-like ser­vices and 1.3Gbps WI-FI con­nec­tiv­ity.

• By 2020, the global mo­bile pop­u­la­tion is fore­casted to be over five bil­lion with the ma­jor­ity of them ac­tive in so­cial me­dia. At that time IP video will ac­count for 82% of all traf­fic world­wide.

• Mo­bile video is ex­pected to reach US$25B glob­ally in 2021.

In ex­plor­ing the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties these new forms of news cre­ation and con­sump­tion bring to main­stream me­dia, I couldn’t think of any­one I’d rather dis­cuss this volatile topic with than the Di­rec­tor of Fore­cast­ing and Me­di­aLab at France Télévi­sions, Eric Scherer.

Thanks for join­ing me Eric. With the ex­po­nen­tial growth in video, and par­tic­u­larly mo­bile video, over the next five years, do you ever see video over­tak­ing text in main­stream me­dia?

First let me say that there is one global me­dia in this cen­tury and that me­dia is the In­ter­net. It may be on dif­fer­ent types of screens, but there is only one con­ver­gent me­dia.

Video is gain­ing trac­tion and we’re see­ing news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and ra­dio get­ting into it. TV is do­ing video as well, but it’s eas­ier for TV be­cause it’s their core busi­ness. Ev­ery­one is do­ing video, or will be very soon, be­cause it feeds the ap­petite of the younger gen­er­a­tions. The mil­len­ni­als led it, and re­search is prov­ing that our youth is con­sum­ing video big time now.

Two years ago, you wouldn’t have be­lieved that peo­ple would watch movies on mo­bile de­vices as they do to­day. The trend of video, plus mo­bile and so­cial, is amaz­ing and it’s only go­ing to get big­ger with the growth of broad­band in the near fu­ture. 5G at the end of the decade, maybe the be­gin­ning of the next, will be an­other huge fac­tor in terms of in­creas­ing the speed and ac­cess to video.

We are just at the be­gin­ning of the video boom, and the chal­lenge for the TV in­dus­try is to not be ab­sorbed or be­come just a very small planet within the mas­sive video uni­verse.

Now in terms of text be­ing over­tak­ing, let me say that text is very im­por­tant. As you know, the younger au­di­ence is read­ing more than ever be­cause they are tex­ting and ex­chang­ing mes­sages, but they are also shar­ing a lot of videos through Snapchat and dif­fer­ent mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. So, text is still sig­nif­i­cant; even re­cent PEW stud­ies show kids pre­fer­ring text for news over video. So the writ­ten word will con­tinue to play a role in the fu­ture, but maybe in a dif­fer­ent way. We will need to make it shorter, punchier and less bor­ing in the very near fu­ture.

Why aren’t more tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers (news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines) in­vest­ing in mo­bile video now?

I think it’s be­cause video is tricky to deal with. You can take a thou­sand pic­tures and have maybe two that are ac­cept­able, but that’s not the case with video. It re­quires a new set of skills in terms of film­ing and edit­ing. That be­ing said, all big news­pa­pers such as The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post, The Wall Street Jour­nal, The Guardian, Daily Mail and many oth­ers in France have video – some of which is high qual­ity.

In the past few years, we’ve seen some growth in mo­bile journalism (mojo) - a new breed of re­porters with the mul­ti­hat role of re­searcher, cam­er­ap­er­son, di­rec­tor, ed­i­tor, pub­lisher, dis­trib­u­tor and mar­keter of mul­ti­me­dia con­tent in real-time. What do you think about this new form of journalism and its fu­ture in main­stream me­dia?

Mojo is one of the most promis­ing ways of de­liv­er­ing journalism to­day be­cause you’re not only record­ing or cover­ing news for mo­bile, you are do­ing it with mo­bile.

Do­ing it with mo­bile changes a lot of things be­cause it is ten times less ex­pen­sive to do it with an iPhone than with a big cam­era. To­day it’s good enough and to­mor­row it will be more than good enough with amaz­ing im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, bet­ter fo­cus and pic­ture qual­ity in newer smart­phones.

With ev­ery catas­tro­phe or dis­as­ter, you will have lo­cal peo­ple shoot­ing scenes, but a pro­fes­sional has to be there as well to dou­ble check the user gen­er­ated con­tent. So the pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist has to be aware of, and to be­gin to use, this tech­nol­ogy. In­ter­est­ingly, one of the larger pri­vate TV chan­nels in France (BFMTV Paris) has man­dated that all of its jour­nal­ists must shoot video with their iPhones.

How big a role will cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists play in the fu­ture of mo­bile journalism?

I don’t be­lieve in the world of cit­i­zen journalism; I don’t like the ex­pres­sion be­cause, just as we don’t have cit­i­zen den­tists or pi­lots, we can­not have cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists.

I be­lieve in tes­ti­mony from the crowd, from the peo­ple on the ground who can share what’s hap­pen­ing on the so­cial net­works. But ev­ery­thing must be val­i­dated by the pro­fes­sional news­room to en­sure it’s fac­tual in terms of what hap­pened, where it hap­pened and when, be­fore it is pub­lished. There is just too much crap on so­cial net­works and we need pro­fes­sion­als to make sense of it all.

As a pro­fes­sor of en­tre­pre­neur­ial journalism, do you be­lieve that the rise of the en­tre­pre­neur­ial jour­nal­ist can help save the me­dia?

It’s tough to be a pro­fes­sor in a journalism school to­day, be­cause as ev­ery­one knows journalism is strug­gling through­out North Amer­ica and Europe. Jour­nal­ists are un­der a lot of stress be­cause their job has few re­wards.

How­ever, I be­lieve that to­day’s gen­er­a­tion who is en­ter­ing into this new world of dig­i­tal journalism, has for the first time in his­tory the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate their own me­dia, ei­ther alone or with a small group. They have a good sense of me­dia; they just need to also un­der­stand the fun­da­men­tals of busi­ness and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy.

Be­fore this new era, you had to work for a news­pa­per, a mag­a­zine, a TV, or a ra­dio, full stop. To­day you can build your own me­dia, and I think it’s amaz­ing. That’s why I am teach­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial journalism - to give stu­dents the free­dom, if they have a good idea that is not ad­dressed to­day by main­stream me­dia, to do it on their own, or at least to bring smart in­no­va­tion to old me­dia.

Do you see tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers go­ing away at any point, be­ing re­placed by these en­trepreneurs?

Not yet, no. The big me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions are still well es­tab­lished and that’s fine; there is room for ev­ery­one. Main­stream me­dia has tremen­dous re­sources, staff, and skills to of­fer. On the other hand, they can­not do ev­ery­thing. I think en­tre­pre­neur­ial jour­nal­ists can bet­ter ad­dress the needs of a com­mu­nity, a lo­cal need. I be­lieve sys­tems should be in place to sup­port that model, be­cause the cost of do­ing this type of me­dia is not zero, but it’s close to zero.

In your 2015 key­note at MIPFor­mats, you talked about to­day’s news con­sumer, say­ing they are al­ways mo­bile, so­cial and in­ter­ac­tive. And yet many pub­lish­ers are shut­ting down com­ment­ing on their sites and driv­ing read­ers away from their own web­sites to so­cial. What ad­vice would you give pub­lish­ers in terms of en­gag­ing to­day’s par­tic­i­pa­tory con­sumer?

You have to be where the au­di­ence is, and to­day the au­di­ence is on so­cial me­dia. That is why pub­lish­ers are clos­ing com­ments and post­ing news di­rectly on so­cial me­dia.

I am mixed about the de­ci­sion to close the com- ments sec­tion be­cause one of the good things of the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion has been this new con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the news­room and the au­di­ence. Be­fore it was not the case. Be­fore it was, top-down, “I speak – you lis­ten.”

To­day we can have a con­ver­sa­tion. But of course, this con­ver­sa­tion should not be with trolls or nasty peo­ple. If you get only nasty peo­ple or trolls, you want to close it down; it’s nor­mal and I un­der­stand that. But if you can have civ­i­lized and use­ful con­tri­bu­tions from peo­ple then I think it adds pos­i­tively to your con­tent and work.

You also said in your key­note that trust is the next killer app, and that trust and trans­parency are new ser­vices. Can you please ex­plain that a bit more?

Snow­den, Face­book, and the Googles of this world have shown we are liv­ing more and more in a kind of new sov­er­eign state, be­cause big busi­ness and gov­ern­ment know ev­ery­thing about us.

There is a huge trust gap to­day with peo­ple hav­ing no idea what busi­nesses and ad­ver­tis­ers are do­ing with their data and how they’re be­ing tracked on the web with cook­ies and so on. I be­lieve that we, as pro­fes­sional me­dia, can try to re­in­force the

reach and the trust be­tween our­selves and our au­di­ence.

For ex­am­ple, in not shar­ing users’ per­sonal data with ad­ver­tis­ers or at least to giv­ing users the right to ap­prove where their data is be­ing stored and shared, and for how long, me­dia can build a new kind of trust with users.

As peo­ple take more con­trol of their own data, this re­la­tion­ship can be en­hanced by me­dia. In this sense, I be­lieve that trust is a killer app. It’s also a killer app when news­rooms be­come trans­par­ent in ex­plain­ing how they work, how they choose the sto­ries of the day, how they re­port on the news, and the kinds of choices and non-choices they make ev­ery day.

I think most peo­ple agree that qual­ity journalism de­servers com­pen­sa­tion. Given mil­len­ni­als’ un­will­ing­ness to pay for news and the growth of ad block­ing, what can pub­lish­ers do to fund qual­ity con­tent?

I think there is no other way, but to ac­tu­ally pay for qual­ity news. But you are right, there is a huge and grow­ing prob­lem with ac­cep­tance of ad­ver­tis­ing by the young au­di­ence. They will not ac­cept what we ac­cepted on TV, ra­dio and in the­aters. We took for granted that we had to watch huge amounts of ad­ver­tis­ing in ex­change for ac­cess to con­tent.

The so­cial con­tract be­tween the con­sumer and the me­dia re­lated to ad­ver­tis­ing is bro­ken to­day. It is bro­ken be­cause peo­ple do not ac­cept be­ing sub­jected to so much ad­ver­tis­ing. As a re­sult, as you men­tioned, ad-block­ers are im­pact­ing nearly 40% of web­site traf­fic to­day.

It’s a prob­lem in North Amer­ica as well as in Europe. We need to mod­ify and en­hance the qual­ity of the ad­ver­tis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and im­prove its rel­e­vance through per­son­al­iza­tion or it won’t be ac­cepted. It’s crazy to think that young kids to­day will ac­cept 90 sec­onds of ad­ver­tis­ing be­fore watch­ing a video. It’s ab­so­lutely crazy. So we have to change that. If not, we will have a big­ger prob­lem than any­thing we’ve seen be­fore.

If you were a pub­lisher, whether that’s news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, TV, ra­dio, what­ever, what would you do go­ing into 2017?

I would work hard on this bro­ken so­cial con­tract over ad­ver­tis­ing be­cause I think IAB and ad agen­cies are in de­nial, and it’s a big is­sue.

Sec­ond, I would con­tinue to press for dig­i­tal change in­side me­dia cor­po­ra­tions, be­cause the cul­tural shift is still a prob­lem and even more than that, a gen­er­a­tional prob­lem.

And third, I would ex­per­i­ment with new for­mats. Per­son­ally, I’m bet­ting a lot on Vir­tual Re­al­ity, Aug­mented Re­alty and the use of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence to help drive these new for­mats.

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