Aren't channels "old hat" nowadays?

The argument goes that mass market media such as broadcast television are now in terminal decline. In the future, consumers will be able to compile their own personalised viewing, listening or reading schedule from a vast range of digitally distributed content. Instead of linear consumption, viewers will be able to choose between real time programming, e.g. live sports coverage or time-lapsed pre-published content, e.g. feature films.

Everywhere you look, there is more evidence of media fragmentation. Last Friday, in addition to the free newspapers being handed out in the street to London commuters, there were two themed free sports titles: Take Sport (an A5 glossy not to be confused with Talk Sport) and Sport (colour sub sized tabloid not to be confused with the Daily Sport - which is something entirely different). In terms of editorial positioning, a good rule of thumb for any title aimed at men is the bikini count. The Sport had only one full page bikini picture (Tiger Wood's wife) compared to Take Sport that had five bikini pictures each of which were only very loosely connected with the written coverage. This does not include a feature on beach volleyball or the advertising.

Is this further evidence of themed media replacing channel media?

Broadcasters and newspaper publishers have traditionally produced range of editorial content in an effort to appeal to the widest possible audience. National newspapers, for example, combine hard news reporting with softer features (helping to drive category advertising), reviews, crosswords and television listings. Most of the large Internet portal sites have followed this route by organising content (usually third-party feeds) under themed channels, e.g. Yahoo! Sport, News, Dating, Shopping, etc. In a multi-channel environment, viewers are more likely to use the remote control to switch between channels (particularly during the commercial breaks) to seek out alternative programmes.

Nowadays, broadcasters acknowledge this behaviour and arrange their schedules in 30 minute segments. For themed channels that broadcast only one programming category, viewers know in advance what to expect. This is a long way from the days when people would sit down to watch ITV or BBC1 as soon as they got home from work and continue viewing the same channel all evening - like an audience for a variety show in a theatre.

Rather than the media fragmenting, more niche channels themed around specific interests seem to be emerging both in tradional media and online. It looks like the channel is around for some time to come.

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