‘Quality’ role for print in fragmented new media world

The modern world is in a frenetic phase of engaging with new media, leading to increased fragmentation, but there will always be a place for print, according to UK consumer trend forecaster Chris Sanderson.

The Future Laboratory co-founder Chris Sanderson

The Future Laboratory co-founder Chris Sanderson

The co-founder of London-based trend forecasters The Future Laboratory, Mr Sanderson was speaking ahead of the Consumer Futures conference, which it hosted in Sydney last week.

He said publishers needed to recognise that the role and the place of a newspaper or magazine had now changed. “It’s now where we turn to for quality. It’s where we turn to for edited content.

“It’s where we turn often for superior thinking, for a voice, for leadership – content that elevates and educates.”

The theme of the conference was the “Me-conomy”, and it examined the changing face of consumers and their increasing power thanks to new technologies.

“We’re going through a transitional stage where the power of one and the notion of the individual is hugely important,” Mr Sanderson told The Newspaper Works.

“We’re looking at how as consumers, we’re becoming more fragmented and difficult to target due to those radical shifts.”

Technology has fostered a culture of self-awareness, particularly among Generation Y, that has led to consumers developing fragmented online personalities – a concept known as “identity sharding” – where they present different sides of themselves on different media.

“A notion of self seems to be one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century,” Mr Sanderson said.

“In terms of media, it’s all about customisation and personalisation. Increasingly we want our news attuned to how we like it and our own personal needs, and the continued growth of media on mobile.”

This frenetic relationship with technology was both positive and negative, he said.

“We all have to begin to understand that the 21st century consumer expects a brand to communicate with them across a whole range of platforms.

Mr Sanderson said that news publishers needed to engage with consumers with relevant content across all platforms, but as formats came and went, print would remain hugely relevant.

“The ability to look at a simple immersive paper that we can touch – something that remains static, doesn’t change.  It’s uncomplicated, it doesn’t require power; it is what it is – and massively important.”

Publishers such as The Guardian were undertaking successful projects to involve their readers more personally, Mr Sanderson said. One example was Guardian Coffee, a café at pop-up mall Box Park in London which carries the masthead’s branding and hosts events focusing on business and media, “extending the idea of the conversation beyond the printed word to encourage and engage people with citizenship”.

“Guardian Coffee creates an environment which is what coffee houses have always been about, which is not just to have a cup of coffee but to sharing ideas, of exchanging relevant thinking,” he said.

The continued growth of citizen journalism was one of the most important influences on the media industry, Mr Sanderson said. “It’s changing what it means to be a journalist.

“A journalist is now someone who can produce content in any format; they can produce video, present it themselves, write a news story, conduct all the interviews.”

Mr Sanderson said the media industry was developing and maturing in many positive ways.

“It’s about the continued relevance of content rather than thinking about format,” he emphasised.

“Formats will come and go in terms of their relevance, but what remains critical is the power of the written word.”

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