Cross Media: a maturing industry

18 Sep 2012 - By Nigel Dacre

Nigel Dacre writes for the Independent Print Industries Association Printing Industry Review. This is his article:

Cross Media: a maturing industry

The terminology is getting broader by the day: multi-platform, cross-platform, cross media. Take your pick. But at its core, the meaning is the same: the ability for clients, customers, staff or audiences to engage with content where they want and when they want.

We no longer have to watch a TV programme at a specific time, or take a day off work to attend a course. Obviously, you can still do both of those things, if you want. But you don’t have too.

The cross media, multi-platform world means that you can increasingly undertake an online training course, watch videos from a conference, or catch up with any TV programme, at a time that is convenient to you, and in place of your choosing.

It’s shifted control towards consumers, users, and viewers, and away from suppliers, content producers, and media organisations.

But the digital revolution, although fast-paced and unstoppable, is not as straight forward as people may think. It comes with its own rules and peculiarities.

I would list three particular features of the cross media industry.

Firstly, as with any disruptive technology, cross media content is new and explorative. It’s moving into the space of traditional, mature markets, which are well understood and defined. The print magazine market, for instance, is based on known and generally accepted production costs, rate cards, and forms of measurement. The cross media world is less precise. How do we value a visit to a niche information website? How much do we charge for a mobile App? How do we measure online video views? What are the real costs of digital production?

Secondly, whereas consumers may be happy to buy a magazine or pay to attend a conference, they often assume that online information-related content should be free. And even if they are prepared to pay, the hassle of putting in credit or debit card details remains a strong deterrent.

Thirdly, content doesn’t necessarily travel seamlessly between different platforms. Hard copy content providers who just flip static pages into online versions often fail to provide what their digital consumers want. The content needs to be adapted for online and digital engagement, amended for computer or mobile screens, and, above all, made interactive. And content conversion of this nature is invariably labour-intensive and can be costly.

However, there is strong evidence that the cross media market is getting more mature – as broadband becomes faster, more reliable, and more mobile, and as payment systems become more sophisticated. And cross media products are working particularly well in the area of training and education, and I believe that this will be a major growth area for cross media suppliers.

Good examples of the last point are two cross media training websites that my company, Inclusive Digital, has produced for clients.

The Royal Society of Medicine Video Platform (www.rsmvideos.com) allows doctors to view lectures and presentation slides, and then complete an interactive training module, before printing off or downloading a CPD certificate.

Likewise the PM Channel (www.thePMchannel.com) provides videos alongside a range of online learning resources for project management professionals.

So… cross media, is here to say. It has its challenges: it’s still feeling its way in the media marketplace; and its content needs to be adapted and tailored for different platforms.

But it also has enormous potential, with content producers, media organisations and training networks becoming increasingly focused on turning the cross media sector into a well established industry. 

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