The future of media is already here and it’s mobile video
An interview with Eric Scherer
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.