What #Election2016 Tells Us About the State of the News and Social Media Marketing
Voters perceive advertising, and its cousins content marketing and retargeting (ads that follow you around), as propaganda. An ad is an ad, consumers aren’t fooled.
Social Media Enables Candidate Credibility
Pre-Internet, third party candidates, like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, were outliers with no chance because the kingmaking power and money were concentrated within the two major parties. Obama leveraged social media first in 2008 as a Democratic dark horse. Now, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have ascended against party establishment wishes by rallying social media voices, even though they were not avowed Republican or Democrat, respectively, four years ago.
Retail Fundraising Levels the Political Playing Field
Voters distrust “establishment” politics, and the Super PACs trying to influence them. It parallels consumer distaste for advertising. Donald Trump has spent relatively little on ads, and Bernie Sanders doesn’t rely on SuperPACs.
So Instead of Super PACs and Ads, What Works? Breaking News
Donald Trump receives more mentions on TV as almost all of the other GOP candidates combined. He deliberately “breaks” news with a series of calculated insults and edgy proclamations that entertains news consumers because they have never seen anything like this in politics. Rivals like Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul countered by manufacturing video bites like the cell phone destruction video and 24-hour-livestreams to attract airtime. They all become pundit-like by commenting on any breaking news event, many of them in response to a Trump pronouncement, which in turn fed the Trump cycle.
Why Breaking News?
I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today — Marc Andreessen
20 years ago, breaking news was distributed by television, not an “always on” media. The rise of the smartphone and other mobile devices has made breaking news ubiquitous, and dramatically increased the number of real time news consumers, fueling the plausibility of Mr. Andreessen’s prediction above.
According to Pew, consumers are hooked on breaking news, with 63% getting their news from Twitter and Facebook in March 2015 (and probably greater today).
News must now be compelling, entertaining… and most of all shareable
The news industry has been in decline for a decade. And digital revenue is not the savior that publishers hoped for. When the majority of news consumption and sharing happens on Twitter and Facebook, publisher website traffic decreases and stalls the growth of digital revenues.
With falling revenues, the news industry is forced to focus on stories with mass appeal, like Top 10 lists, over niche journalistic topics and local news that have limited audience from which to monetize.
The new news media like BuzzFeed and Vox Media deliver buzzworthy content like top 10 lists, and have garnered a reader base that push their valuations to levels of established news media like the NY Times.
Breaking News is the New “Content Marketing”
Donald Trump has mastered the Buzzfeed formula for engagement on Twitter, essentially today’s breaking news platform.
But breaking news isn’t perceived as advertising, it is greeted as news — timely, informative and authentic. @realdonaldtrump is essentially content marketing by packaging what he thinks (content), and designing the content for social sharing (marketing).
Why Aren’t More Brands Building News Media?
Advertising fails; breaking news is compelling. As the news industry consolidates around pop content and national breaking news, who will cover niche topical news and local news?
Politicians, organizations, civic groups and movements (let’s just call them in aggregate “brands”) chronicle topical and local news, they just don’t think of themselves as news media. #BlackLivesMatter should be chronicling the African American condition across America by curating the journalists breaking news in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson, and syndicating this news to their followers / news consumers. Politicians should be developing field operations as local social networks in order to share breaking news that validate and boost their candidacy. Civic groups like Lions Club or Habitat for Humanity should build a local news network that exposes their service to communities.
Building news media no longer requires a hired press corps. Brands can leverage their existing social capital to amplify and syndicate the work of supportive journalists, newsmakers and advocates, and by doing so, give them more recognition to sustain their valuable work. In the long run, copywriters and media buyers who once focused on ad campaigns will transition to building news strategies for distribution.
This is where Marc Andreessen’s prediction of the tenfold growth in the news business starts making sense. As brands position themselves as news media, the news ecosystem, and its primary platform, Twitter, will grow.