strategic communication

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

Archive for the category “Convergence”

The Universal Use of Blogs

As media becomes more mobile and digital, more instances of citizen journalism are making headlines. People who are in the right place at the right time can simply take out their phones and report the next big story. News outlets will get a hold of the footage, fact check the source, and then display it on national media. What a powerful concept–that anyone can be responsible for the first look of a breaking story! Even bloggers who do not make headlines with breaking news are still able to publish stories for anyone to read. These stories have the power to sway their readers’ opinions, so it is important for businesses to understand just how influential blogs can be.

When researching a topic or product, it is very likely that blogs with key words will come up in searches. There are blogs out in the “blogosphere” that cover everything from clothes, to food, to politics. Many of these bloggers write their posts because they simply want to talk about their passions, share their thoughts, or ask the vast amount of World Wide Web users their questions. Bloggers can choose to be as open and detailed as they wish with their posts. Blog use spiked after the 9/11 attacks when people had so many worries and speculations they felt they needed to express. Blogs allowed humans to connect with others with similar views of the event. These connections gave small comforts of online support while the real world spun on in chaos. Sherry Turkle discusses the irony of posting for millions of people online, but feeling more alone in real life relationships. Perhaps it is easier to be honest and voice opinions when there is a screen in front of the user. Technology puts a sort of wall up even when a person is expressing vulnerable information. People can post how they really feel without having to worry about a real-life confrontation.

Blogs have created communities can be more authentic than other social media. There is more room to write thoughts just the way users want, in any sort of format they want. The honest views and opinions behind many blogs create inviting safe places to read about similar interests. I remember when I was in about 7th grade, I was googling lyrics to a song and came across the first online blog I ever saw. I read post after post before realizing it was a girl around my age who lived in Singapore. I remember I was completely drawn to her personal stories that ranged from school activities to hanging out with friends on the weekend. She frequently blogged about American Idol and Harry Potter, both of which I was quite obsessed with at the time. To this day I still think that was one of the coolest things I discovered: that there are ways to connect with people similar to you who live on the other side of the world.

Here is a picture from the WordPress Stats site of people actively posting, commenting, and liking blogs. The site states that as of 2014 “tens of thousands of new WordPress sites are created every day.” Now that is some big data! How are all of these blogs being used as sources of information?

Wordpress stats

Many political bloggers write their posts in narrative forms, expressing their ideology and beliefs. A study found that while most political bloggers created their blog to let of steam or record their stream of consciousness, they ultimately continued blogging because of their influences on readers. Democracy and the voting process are affected by blogs because people are putting their trust into the opinion of average citizens. One blogger in this study talked about “getting quoted by journalists.” Even professional journalists are looking at blogs for information and insight. Blogging serves as a purpose to give people information they want.

Outside of the political world, personal blogs can create just as much conversation. If a blogger has an unpleasant experience in a retail or food corporation, what is stopping him or her from writing about it in a blog that can potentially be seen by millions? Knowing that every individual has the power to post about real-time events based on first-hand information is crucial when serving customers. Businesses are being held even more accountable because any kind of exposure is only one click away. Blogs with large followings in these web-based communities will spark conversations, so it is crucial for businesses to maintain a good reputation.

Businesses can use blogs to relate to these communities. Blogs are used for marketing products that can easily explain the benefits of customers using said products. Blogs create personalities behind large business, and showcase the value of smaller businesses. Business blogs can provide special coupons or information about upcoming specials in the stores. They can also include stories about what employers are doing outside of the office, such as community service or attending local events. Educational Data Systems, Inc. (EDSI) is a national company dedicated to providing training support during the transitional times of job searching. Their official website features a link to their blog where different employees post informative and personal stories. Some stories are written as dedications to those who inspire the poster to do well, and those are the ones that interested me the most. The blog showed me that the people behind this company are in fact real, with real stories that relate to so many readers. EDSI’s website offers information on their products and success, but it also opens up the company so the public can see what motivates its employees to do well.

Businesses who frequently post blogs are also inviting their customers to comment on the quality of their products. Perhaps the team behind the blog can offer Q&A posts to find out exactly what their consumers want. Companies can use this feedback when brainstorming ways to improve their products. Frequent posts that include real photographs and geotags also establish a company’s trustworthiness. If customers can see a company communicating and addressing concerns, they will see the company as one that cares about their needs.

Blogs are universal in that they can serve as personal diaries, informational services, and citizen journalism. We live a world where anyone can use the web freely to report, analyze, or expose news. A free site that allows a user to have complete control over what is posted is very enticing in a world of constant commotion.

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The Urgency of Media Convergence

I want to start off this week’s topic, media convergence, with a personal anecdote.

I have begun the post-graduate job search. Using my laptop, I began a simple search on Google by typing in the job field and the location. One job came up that sounded like a potential fit. I clicked the company name which brought me to a page that showed it was owned by a larger company. It was at this point that I grabbed my iPhone next to me, pulled up the Google app, and typed in the name of the larger company to search for more information. 

To reiterate: I was sitting in front of my laptop, but chose to grab my cell phone and click on the Google app.

Why didn’t I just open another tab and go to Google on my laptop? I’ll admit that I have my lazy moments, but I assure you I am not so lazy that flipping through tabs would be too much work for me. The reality is that I have almost been conditioned to do a quick search on my phone.

Google is the most popular search engine on the web, but people are increasingly turning to apps. Clearly aware of this transition, Google embraces convergence by promoting their app on their mobile site.

googleapp

A Wired article shows the decline of the web and explains apps are “less about the searching and more about the getting.” The screen is right there at the push of a button. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, IMDB, and other popular websites all launched apps because of the demand for simple, convenient information.

Switching to apps for convenient information isn’t the only example of media convergence.

Engineers and scientists are talking about “Big Data.” The word big does not even begin to do it justice. Big Data actually describes an enormous amount of digital data. In 2011 1.8 zettabytes of data were created. This amount is double that of “7 billion people on Earth…continually tweeted for one century”

People are creating data every day and digital media is increasingly popular. Another doubling amount is the number of Emmy nominations Netflix received this year. Netflix series received a total amount of 31 nominations combined, an increase from 14 total nominations last year. The shows nominated have never been on television cable networks, rather they are all original series on Netflix’s live streaming. People are watching Netflix on their SMART TV’s, iPads, and video gaming consoles. They can watch Netflix at home, at the airport, at a restaurant, etc. In fact, Nielsen is now measuring television through gaming consoles and broadband connections. Future measurements will most likely include apps on iPads. Digital television is one of the largest front runners in media convergence and it will only continue to grow.

People may forget that Netflix was first enticing because of its DVD-by-mail service. A customer could choose from any movie or season of a show, have the DVD delivered, and keep it as long as necessary. Since 2011, the DVD service has lost “half of its subscribers.” They made changes and amplified the advertising for their live streaming so much that the home screen for Netflix.com only mentions live-streaming. In 2013, 63% of Americans used the live-streaming feature. Overall, there is an increase in live-streaming users and a decrease in DVD-by-mail users. People are looking for instant gratification in entertainment.

netflix

Television networks such as ABC, NBC, and even Showtime are streaming their popular shows on Netflix. When a new season of a show is coming out, these networks know that consumers will most likely binge-watch older episodes in order to catch up in time for the premiere. Shows that had successful runs on cable can also be re-watched on Netflix, causing them to be more popular than ever. NBC’s Friday Night Lights ended in 2011, but every season is currently available on Netflix. People are still watching this show and various Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been created in honor of the show and its characters. To take this a step further, Arrested Development was cancelled on cable television in 2006, but its three seasons were streamed on Netflix. The popularity and faithful viewership actually allowed the show to be brought back for a fourth season in 2013. Netflix is a prime example of how media convergence keeps people talking about shows that would otherwise be irrelevant. Television networks who do not provide online streaming of their shows will suffer from lack of consistent viewers.

In addition to the entertainment industry, retailers have also merged their media outlets to keep connecting with consumers. One example is how Shoe Carnival, a shoe chain of almost 400 stores nationwide, has changed their approach with advertising over the past 3 years. In the past, Shoe Carnival would place an ad insert in the newspaper. Today, inserts can be found in existing newspapers, fliers in the mail, e-mail blasts, third-party websites created for hosting ads, and social media. The combination of both paper and electronic ads has allowed Shoe Carnival to reach thousands of consumers. The company has an understanding of what its consumers want: quick and convenient information for how to save when shopping in their stores.

A specific example of the company staying relevant is its most recent back-to-school promotion. In an effort to reach the youthful target customer for Keds merchandise, Shoe Carnival and Keds selected social media as the main outlet to reach these consumers. Customers were able to take “selfies” with a cardboard cutout of Keds spokesperson Taylor Swift in every Shoe Carnival store. These customers were then encouraged to post their selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #kedscarnival in order to be eligible to win a free pair of Keds. Over 1,000 posts were made, and Keds sales for the time frame were over double from the previous year.

 kedscarn

Other companies are not as ready to jump on media convergence platform, and they are suffering the consequences. The New York Times has been crushed by digital papers that are savvier with attraction to readers. The Times may post a relevant article, but it is constantly overshadowed by “amusing” and informative articles. Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post are both digital news sources that have a strong following, particularly because of the sharing feature on social media. Their articles are oftentimes the first news sources a target audience looks to for information because they are quick, smart, and enjoyable to read. The Times simply isn’t giving consumers what they want, and they will lose much of their readership if they continue to ignore their problems. 

Businesses willing to converge in digital media will be successful. Digital media keeps products and companies relevant to a wider audience. Those who are trying to stick to the “but we’ve always done it this way” approach and avoid media convergence will only fall behind. 

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