Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Media Consolidation vs. Fragmentation: Action Steps for Government Communicators? (Updated)

Right now we are seeing increasing fragmentation/personalization of the news through the pervasiveness of web-based outlets. At the same time, a few large companies own the vast majority of American media:
1. Fragmented/personalized media
According to the Pew Research Center "State of the News Media 2012" survey:
* Revenue is down for network TV, local TV, magazines and newspapers but increasing for online TV, cable and audio (meaning radio or streaming web audio)
* 54% get news on at least one "digital, web-based device"
* 9% of U.S. adults "get news on any digital device very often through Facebook."
2. Consolidation of mainstream media in the hands of a few
Media Consolidation: six companies own 90% of American media: GE, Disney, News Corp, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS (Infographic here)
How can government communicators turn this data into insight - to deliver information to the public more effectively? What concrete actions should we take? I am reflecting on this and welcome any comments.    

Some of my own thoughts--
To me the data tells a consistent story.
* Many in the public actively mistrust government - there is always tension between the federalists and the anti-federalists. See recent Gallup numbers below.
* Mistrust of government combined with aversion to "corporate owned media"  fuels the development of alternative news, blog, social media, etc. by the public. (Free technology also enables as does culture of self expression through social media.)
* The appropriate response from a communications point of view would be to do things that increase trust in government (obviously) by increasing the quality of information provided to the public. (This from the public's perspective) AND making sure they know about it and can access it.
* Sample areas of focus could include making government data "mashable," customer service as Amazon provides it - email, chat, or phone options; and developing FAQs based on visiting social media sites and then responding both there and at the original government site.
* In general I would move the focus away from the government website and toward the interactive model where the site mainly holds data and repositories of information posted on social media sites.
* I would also form a cadre of virtual information ambassadors who would reach out to the public to provide information.
These are just some ideas, but I hope that others here who are engaged in projects of this nature can add.
Item #1

Item #2
Screenshot sources: Gallup (Annotations by Dannielle Blumenthal)