Social media is not the cause of the fall in traditional print news publications. If it were, then there would be a line of causality between the number of Internet companies and the collapse of traditional media.
Such a relationship would have already destroyed the traditional print publications, but as it stands they remain, in most countries, the main provider of news and information.
I have often wondered at this, as all of the narrative and stories we hear support the inevitable digital everywhere future – a future which I continue to have faith will come into effect.
But this means there has to be something else ‘causing’ the decline in traditional media. In a talk I attended from international employee engagement expert, Bob Kelleher, I think I found the answer. And if the prognosis of his conclusions is correct, the future for print is even bleaker than we currently predict.
Bob Kelleher is an international expert in employee engagement. His world is internal communications within a corporation where he has written two best selling books (Louder than Words & Creativeship) and founded the Employee Engagement Group.
In his presentation he made an important observation about engagement and communicating with Generation Y employees. He told a story about how he sent a voice mail to his teenage age son, and received an SMS back asking “what do you want dad”.
Bob would reply by SMS saying “Did you get the voicemail”.
“Yes, what do you want?”
“Did you listen to the voicemail?”
“No, what do you want.”
The morale of the story was that generation y, those under 25, cannot be forced to use and consume the traditional media that we are used to. In fact, within a couple of years, Generation Y are forecast to become the largest employee segment. This means that companies will have to change the way they communicate and engage if they want to be relevant.
There is no point in notice boards, if our young workers are using social media tools.
The same is true for external engagement. And this brings me to my conclusion about the causality of the decline of print.
It is not social media that are causing this decline – no it’s the ageing youth population and their growing importance to our economy and growing purchasing power.
This means that traditional media need to rethink their strategies completely – it’s not about having a digital Web site version of the newspaper or magazine. That’s not going to succeed, because social/digital is not the cause of their decline.
What they need to do is a fuller understanding of the youth segment, Generation Y, and work out how to engage with them and what they need / want.
Is it possible, that the future newspaper will be a Facebook page? Possibly, very, very possibly.
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