I’ve just had a rather surreal afternoon, having been asked (at very short notice) to appear on Channel 4 News (the main news show on one of the UK’s 5 terrestrial broadcasters.) I was invited on the program to to discuss Rupert Murdoch’s reported plans to link up with Bing at the same time as pulling News International’s content from Google.
Video of the discussion on Channel 4:
Whatever happens, what can’t be disputed is that the print news business is facing a number of serious challenges as it tries to work out how to update business models that have been around for hundreds of years, compared to a medium that is only celebrating its 20th birthday this year.
Yet whilst the outlook for newspapers often looks gloomy, I’ve recently started to think that the future of news on the TV could be a lot more rosy, and it’s down to the convergence of TV, social media and new technologies.
How 2009 has changed social news media
This year has seen some amazing examples of news and current affairs being impacted or influenced by the social media. Whether it was Obama’s inauguration being broadcast online in a record-breaking tie-up between CNN & Facebook which allowed users to share their feelings on the momentous occasion, or thousands of people in the UK using Twitter to show outrage about a rather distasteful article soon after the untimely death of an Irish pop-star, we’ve seen time ant time again that people like to use social media to discuss the news.
And whilst there have been incredible examples of news being created (or at least cataloged, in the case of the Hudson plane crash) by consumers prior to being picked up by major media organisations, it seems that just as with entertainment content, consumers still prefer their news from professional/traditional organisations.
Certainly, when you strip the tech blogs out of Tweetmeme’s Leaderboard, which tracks the most retweeted sources on Twitter, you will find plenty of household names. Despite the fact that (thanks to) mobile and micro-blogging, Forrester’s ladder now lies on its side, users still prefer to share, rather than create content. If you like, USC (user shared content) rather than UGC.
Convergence of media
The only problem with the above model at the moment is that too often the discussion and the news are being viewed on different screens. Certainly I was one of thousands of Britons who watched an appearance by a racist politician on the BBC’s Question Time show on my TV, and was at the same time, following the discussion on Twitter on my laptop – there were 1,000 tweets a minute at one point. But if Yahoo! were to get their way, as of next year, this will start to be a rarity rather than the norm.
This year saw the launch of Yahoo! Connected TV, which essentially are widgets pulling bits of the web onto specially built TVs. They allow consumers to watch YouTube videos at the same time as watching a movie on cable; update Facebook whilst watching the football; or, for example, join a conversation on Twitter at the same time as watching a news program. And, as we’ve already seen, if there’s one thing that users of social media like to do, it’s to share and discuss news and current events as they happen.
At present, the number of models TVs that support these Yahoo! Connected TV is limited. But next year, will see a veritable smorgasbord of TV widgets as all of the major manufacturers release models in the US & Europe. And whilst I’m loathe to make predictions, there is a possibility that the next couple of years will see social converging with developments in TV technology, in the same sort of way that it did with mobile, where the iPhone and rocketing Facebook membership has driven the uptake of the mobile web.
And if that happens, the Rupert Murdochs of this world – who own news channels as well as newspapers, could be more concerned with their relationship with Yahoo! than Google or Microsoft.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.