“People’s ability to engage with content on an ongoing basis has dramatically changed over the past 2–3 years with the advent of mobile.” Michael Dreyer, Senior Director of Business Development at Getty Images helped set the tone of our discussion at Soho House yesterday with this observation. As audiences’ modes of engaging with content changes, content and the speed at which it is produced must change as well.
Michael joined Carina Kolodny, Director of Multimedia Platforms at Huffington Post, and Allen Duan, Product, Technology, and Strategic Partnerships at Hearst Corporation in conversation about images and the effect that our fast-paced content creation cycle has had on them. The panelists’ insights were highlighted by the expertise of the audience — we were excited to welcome guests from Time, Wall Street Journal, Bonhams, the Tory Burch Foundation, AOL, and Discovery, amongst others.
Image as content
Carina from Huffington Post shared her observation that they and other leading publishers are now photo first and video first— in recent years, images have come to the forefront on desktop and mobile. She recalled an editor at Huffington Post once telling her that “photos are the first thing viewers see but the last thing an editor thinks about.” This has changed significantly in the last few years. Now, images not only drive content and engagement, but increasingly they are the content.
In a space where publications used to be text first, now entire platforms are being designed around the concept of “images first.” For Huffington Post, images will almost always spark more conversation, especially on platforms like Facebook. Hearst’s publication Cosmopolitan understands this well. Their launch on Snapchat Discover earlier this year has allowed them to tap into a new audience that communicates 24/7 through visual content.
How to move fast
It was exciting to have Carina join us on the day that Huffington Post launched HuffPost 24, their new 24-hour online video network that will feature formats ranging from live video to feature-length documentaries. This is a key outlet in an age where platforms like live blogs, Twitter, and Periscope have begun to set the pace.
Similar changes are happening at Getty and Hearst. Allen shared that in an effort to get visual content about news as it is breaking, Hearst has begun exploring the possibility of sending drones to locations with breaking news stories. To create conversation through visual content, many of Hearst’s monthly and weekly magazines have started using other platforms, like Cosmopolitan on Snapchat Discover.
Michael talked about how in Getty’s earlier days, the warehouses of analogue photos were shopped around to customers via physical photo books. Now, photographers on the scene are connected via ethernet cable to editors who receive the images as they’re shot and immediately begin to prepare the images to be shared with customers, so customers will have visual content to share with breaking news stories.
Content curation is critical as we wade through a vast mass of new content and new platforms. Consumers want more direction — Michael Dreyer, Getty Images
The speed and magnitude of content creation and sharing also raise questions of scale. The panelists suggested that humans are still excellent content curators — there are people who have an eye for a story or an image that will pique interest. That said, there’s increasingly more news and content to squeeze into a 24-hour period or onto a single site.
As content scales, human curators simply can’t quite scale in the same way. This leaves an important space for technologies to intelligently assist humans to surface and curate content in real time.
Authenticity is key, even in a fast-paced environment
One of Huffington Post’s guiding principles is that it is more important to be right than to be first. By providing high quality, credible content, publishers can build and maintain their authenticity, making themselves a trusted source.
This concept of authenticity appeared in a number of forms throughout our discussion. When getting tips on breaking news, Carina felt that on-location tweets lent a sort of authenticity that other sources might not. Additionally, images from stock photo services that feel real, present, and not posed lend more authenticity to articles than clearly posed images do.
Authenticity is something that will continue to bubble up as sources, content, and stories proliferate.
See more coverage of the event at #NeonLive and #ImagesandTime
Photo credit: Don Pollard