Last week, members of iconic Pinoy band Eraserheads reunited, the first in a long time, for a concert. The occasion was the unveiling of the new logos of PLDT and Smart. Save for company employees, the event was all hush-hush. The press contact who invited me only said I was going to a “confidential” event.
After the new logos were unveiled, the stage went dark and the screen counted down 10 minutes. Technicians worked on instruments and wirings, building up buzz and excitement. When the Eraserheads members were finally introduced, people in the room went wild.
And then it happened, people started broadcasting the performance live to their friends and social media contacts.
In the media environment of old, people would know about the performance in the next day’s newscast through a one-minute or so news report with a clip of a few seconds that shows them performing their biggest hits, probably “Pare ko” or “Huling El Bimbo.” This assumes that the newsroom deems their reunion newsworthy in the context of that day’s events. Bad luck if Manny Pacquiao gets caught with a mistress on the same day.
On print, we’d learn about it 2 days after, at the earliest, in the newspapers’ lifestyle section.
Last week, however, people who had in their social circles persons who attended the launch were able to join the performance via Facebook Live. I saw about 10 people broadcasting the event live. I was one of them and several friends and online contacts were able to view the concert via my FB Live stream. One who was apparently an E-heads fanatic was profuse in his thanks for the livestream.
From medium to platform
It’s a picture of disintermediation in an era where platforms like Facebook have largely supplanted traditional media in certain information needs. We now learn and keep track of breaking news on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, many of the stories are produced by mainstream media organizations but we read and watch the news not on their sites but on the social media platforms that we spend most of our time on every day.
Artificial intelligence, bots and internet of things will automate more of the traditional news gathering and writing processes. Already, platforms like Automated Insights produce near flawless bot reporting in areas like sports and business. Even more astounding, they turned it into a platform anyone can use or plug into. In the future, this will be used to write customized stories to help us make sense of data. Imagine a bot in the cloud compiling all your health data and test results and writing you a prognosis and a fitness plan, which are then reviewed by your doctor.
Will there be no room for traditional media as we know it then? Far from it. As the amount of information explodes, we need people to help us uncover the signal from the noise. We need people to provide context or background information. That is an important role organizations like mainstream media can perform. That is also a role that demands more skills and training for journalists.
Context, background info, analyses
In the Eraserheads reunion, for example, we needed to find context and background info elsewhere. They said they will be performing more gigs (how many more and where?). What has changed through the years? Why are they performing together again? This info you might be able to get from mainstream media, if anybody pursued it, or from the band itself, had they provided the information on a social media page.
Unfortunately for media organizations, however, is that advertising has also shifted to platforms like Facebook. It now makes more sense for companies to directly connect with potential customers on internet platforms like Facebook and Google rather than go through media, whether traditional or new. Facebook and Google offer companies a way to accurately target specific market demographics for marketing campaigns, measure the impact and, because they have global scale, offer such low prices compared to ad rates of traditional publications. In fact, advertisers are already “over-indexed” on legacy media like newspapers.
It’s a bleak picture for mainstream media companies. But for individual journalists, it couldn’t be better. Risks have escalated of journalists losing their jobs but there is good news elsewhere. There are now opportunities to launch smaller and niche media brands as well as journalism startups. Platforms like Facebook offer media tools like Instant Articles to any organization, from bloggers to small news sites to bigger media startups, allowing virtually anyone to improve the reading experience on mobile. Companies have also realized the need to produce their own content for digital marketing, making writers and editors much more in-demand in the marketplace.