By Adam Wakefield

Having completed the first part of his talk at the Future of Media Conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, 21 July, Senor then spoke about a force surpassing all others in pre-eminence in media: mobile.

“Mobile advertising is where the money is going. The migration is huge but again, another quandary, another Gordian knot. We have a massive audience but a very small screen,” Senor said.

Senor then asked; “How do we succeed in a mobile dominant world?”

Success means creating uniquely tailored content that prioritised mobile-first design over web-responsive design, followed by tablets, with desktops the last stop.

“You should begin with mobile and, hopefully, it will translate and trans-mediate to desktop. You need to build around re-usage scenarios,” Senor said.

In summarising mobile, Senor had six rules:
  • “Let mobile behaviours guide your content creation and organisation. My message has to be pertinent [for example] to South Africans on a Sunday morning. How do I put a message at that specific, special time?” Content is king, context is queen.
  • Make it expandable;
  • Expand into apps;
  • Offer SMS and push alerts;
  • “Video, video, video”; and
  • Segmented emails.
Advertisers are coming round to mobile in a big way, says Senor; “Mobile represents 76% of Facebook’s revenue in 2016.”

From mobile, Senor’s focus turned to video, noting that “the web is now a visual medium. 80% of the content that will be consumed in the next two years will be video when it comes to digital”.

Senor’s tips when using video are to promote and distribute clips across multiple platforms, launch products with lower streaming costs, and create branded video content for clients.

However, as important as video is globally, 90% of revenues for newspapers still come from print, added Senor.

“Print has to be a bridge to a digital future. We mustn’t let it crumble. We need innovation in print. Digital mobile first, but not only digital. It is not a zero-sum game. This is a false dichotomy,” he stressed.

“There have been a lot of digital fables pushed your way – The paperless office, news wants to be free, if you build it they will come, the platform is the message, user generated content will replace journalism, do what you do best and link the rest.”

None of them have turned out to be true, however, said Senor. Furthermore, radio has not destroyed print, TV has not destroyed radio, nor has the Internet destroyed TV or print. 

“No medium has ever replaced another medium. It’s not happened and it’s never going to happen. Print is eternal,” Senor said.

Print is alive and will remain a profitable option for decades, but not as we know it. The newspaper business has changed forever, with Senor seeing newspapers surviving as haute couture and digital being prêt-à-porter.

Senor said; “There is nothing to fear, but for you, it means that, inevitably, newspapers will have less circulation but more revenue”, pointing to a one to five multiple.

This translates to fewer people buying the newspaper but more people wanting to pay more for it. To do this, newspapers have to move away from the news that is fit to print.

“We have to kill the multi-section newspaper model. The newspaper as the record of the day is finished,” Senor emphasised.

Today, leading newspapers such as the New York Times, Le Monde and The Guardian take an issue and cover “the hell out of it”. They had to become niche products that focused on print’s strengths, being typography, photos, grids, infographics, and illustrations.

“Design is content in the digital age. Humans cannot ingest, let alone digest, more data today. We need to move from the digital to the physical world,” Senor said.

“The engagement is to reinforce print while growing digital. Less paper, more journalism. Less reviews, more previews. Print for prestige and visibility, digital for mass audience.”

It all comes down to good journalism being good business, but the transformation Senor refers to can only happen by focusing on good journalism.

“The fact is innovation starts at the top but really happens at the bottom. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It has to be planned, staged, and funded,” he said.

“We need great editors who can dream and lead again, and they need great clients who can dream and lead again. There is a lot at stake.”

The fundamentals of journalism have not changed. In fact, in the digital age, they have become even more important.

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