If you ever doubted that the media landscape is shifting, you only need to look at the reports that the NFL, the mightiest-of-mighty media properties, is experiencing a large dip in viewership. Through the first five weeks of play, The Washington Post reported that ratings dipped 15 percent. This news may either be a blip or the surest sign that audience fragmentation is fundamentally changing how valuable media properties are to advertisers and their abilities to draw in truly mass audiences. There are also real takeaways for professional services companies:
- Raw views are less and less important. – No content creation vehicle should have its success based solely on “clicks.” Consider “click-bait,” the weed of the internet. Click-bait gets lots and lots of “clicks,” but is like a flat can of soda – nutritionally devoid and ultimately unsatisfying. When a blog is launched and the metric on which its author focuses is the most clicks, content suffers. This is when one sees headlines that mention Taylor Swift, but have no connection – popular names and terms peppered in for the sake of SEO. This turns off long-term readers, especially important in B2B as the end goal is far more complex than “see a product, buy a product.”
- Find new metrics. – Raw views should still be monitored, not with a long-term goal of ever-increasing numbers, but of building and maintaining a core audience. In addition, client intake forms should both ask if content channels factored into the decision-making process and ask if clients would like to sign up for feeds. Client satisfaction surveys should include questions about blogs and other content vehicles. The NFL may lose viewership, but teams are ensuring that the truly passionate fans are tracked and targeted with offers, as this Bloomberg Businessweek article details. The same level of analysis should a goal for professional services companies.
- Embrace new platforms and free your content. – Realizing that “cord cutting” and “cord nevers” are a genuine threat to the NFL’s lucrative broadcast rights, the league has taken steps to bring the game to new channels. Last year Yahoo! streamed a game for free on its website, and this past offseason, the NFL partnered with Twitter to stream games to users of this social media network. And, if you have a Verizon phone, you can stream local broadcasts for free through the league’s app. Professional services companies should embrace cross-posting content on social media (personal and professional), firm web properties and in third-party publications that offer high-visibility and do well in terms of SEO.
- Understand generational shifts. – Massive shifts in how we see and interact with the world mean that many traditional tactics and assumptions are no more. Just as the NFL seemingly can no longer assume its viewership is immune from technologies, such as streaming and social media eating into mind-share, professional services companies need to really consider whether the content they are creating is adding to the conversation or just repeating what has already been said. If the latter, readers will simply change the channel or not tune in at all. And, blog writing should not be the exclusive domain of an understudy whose goal is to say, at annual review time, “I wrote X posts!” It needs to be a company-wide priority, with executive voices and client-relationship keepers regularly heard.
The NFL will remain wildly popular for years to come, especially given its cherished status as part of American tribalism. However, it, along with all content, needs to compete for our attention and stand out in a world where we can effortlessly create a custom stream of news and entertainment.
Given this dynamic, professional services companies – more than ever – must embrace their role as content creators while, at the same time, setting aside long-held assumptions about what defines “success” for content.