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Thu 1 Feb 2018 02:36 PM

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Opinion: finding ways to deal with the changing way content is consumed

Consumers have a vast array of content options, leaving providers with the task of creating coherent and sustainable business models

Opinion: finding ways to deal with the changing way content is consumed

Until just a decade ago, being a journalist meant getting words on a page and off to press.

These days, we juggle those functions with being social media and digital strategists, as well as videographers – all because the way content is consumed has dramatically changed.

Readers aren’t just readers anymore: they want on-demand entertainment, in multiple formats. They want to listen to it on podcasts on the metro, watch it on YouTube while shifting tabs at work, and read it on their Kindle before going to bed. And this applies to music, TV and film. All of it must now be supplied in multiple formats, on ever-evolving platforms.

The good news is that there are only three ways to consume content – by listening, reading, or watching it. Or that is until humankind finds a way to interpret and record brain stimuli, which as an aside, Elon Musk is trying to do via his neurotechnology company Neuralink. But until then, these are the only mediums we have to worry about. The bad news, is that we’re still far from figuring out the right mix of content on each of those mediums.

Regional responses

Our cover feature this week looks at how the market for content has changed in this region, and how service providers are responding to those challenges.

Interviews include the CEOs of OSN and Starz Play and the heads of a new radio broadcaster, Shock Media. They operate in an on-demand world where streaming services – direct to phones, tablets and TVs from every corner of the planet – have thrown the formerly sedate terrestrial airwaves into disarray. These services are tapping into customers who want content when and wherever they demand it.

But that also presents opportunities for local players. By partnering with a telecom operator, Starz Play can beam an episode of a show that a viewer might have missed the night before directly onto their phone – so instead of listening to a podcast or reading an article on the metro on the way back from work, they can now watch the episode instead.

Making it pay

None of this has killed TV, podcasts, radio, books or magazines in developing or emerging markets. Revenues have fallen, or at least require more work to secure, but this is being felt across the board. And at companies where this hasn’t yet happened it surely will. In this low-margin industry, where the entry barriers are lower, high revenues usually mean a business has secured first mover advantage, and will be vulnerable to competitors as they enter the same space.

Take Netflix for instance. The company has charted an impressive course since its humble beginnings as a DVD rental service. But it has raised subscription fees in its US homebase, which will no doubt translate to other markets. According to results from 2017, the increase in size of its obligations on revenue to actual returns is raising concerns about future growth.

Striking a balance

The only way to secure those revenues is by appealing to all of the consumers’ senses. Which is why the companies profiled in this issue are investing in original media content, localising existing offerings, and delivering better insights across every medium to which they can devote resources.

Fortunately for consumers, the range and quality of options has increased dramatically. Unfortunately for businesses, at least in the short term, the market for content, while not the zero-sum game everyone feared it would be, very much resembles a colouring book with no clear lines. There are still many more blanks to fill in before a clearer picture starts to emerge.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online