The Democratisation of Media and the Content Arms Race

The Democratisation of Media

Not too long ago the amount of effort, time and money it would cost to reach thousands of people, even hundreds of people, meant the flow of information and what people had access to was controlled by relatively few people. Publishing houses, newspapers, radio stations and TV networks determined what was deemed important, newsworthy or quality content. The lengthy and costly processes meant there was limited choice, today those limits have been eliminated, the creation and mass adoption of the internet/world wide web significantly reduced those barriers, and the development of social media platforms, smartphones and high speed internet have all but obliterated them. 

This is the democratisation of media. Any individual now has the potential to get their message out there at no direct cost, on a whole number of mediums. This could be a blog post or a stream of tweets, a pre-recorded video on YouTube, a Facebook live stream, or even as a podcast, a format that is rapidly growing in popularity. 

As a viewer or a reader, you are now inundated with choice; you consume what you want, where you want, whenever you want to. News and information can be disseminated to potentially millions instantaneously at the push of a button. This choice has turned the power dynamic on its head. Previously media was linear, one (the broadcaster) to many (the audience), and if you missed a show you would have to wait till the re-run.

Today the focus is on access-on-demand where users have access to a plethora of platforms and an ever increasing choice of content, from Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) platforms such as Netflix to Advertising Video on Demand Platforms (AVOD) such as YouTube, Facebook & IGTV, and you choose what to watch and when you want it. Furthermore, there are no signs of these choices slowing down, with more streaming platforms being announced this year alone, namely Apple TV+, Britbox (a joint venture between BBC & ITV), and Disney+ with each coming with their own sizeable cheque book. The amount being spent on content production is greater than it has ever been, with Netflix alone predicted to spend $10bn on content this year, in an attempt to protect their position in the market against increasing competition. It’s safe to say that the content arms race is well and truly underway. 

However, the democratisation of media isn’t simply about more choice in consumption, it is about the potential for any individual to have the ability to reach the masses, and put it to the people to decide what is deemed important, newsworthy and/or great content. With social media platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitch, audiences are now able to become creators themselves and lines between a creator and consumer have been blurred.

The Logan Paul KSI Fight

There is no better recent example than the KSI vs Logan Paul fight. KSI is a self-made star whose career began in 2008 when he began recording himself playing the video game FIFA from his bedroom in his parents’ house in North London. Since then he has amassed a following on Youtube of over 20m subscribers with an estimated net worth of $5m. His opponent Logan Paul, another self-made Social Media star from across the pond whose social media career began on the deceased social media platform Vine before switching to YouTube has also amassed a following of over 20m subscribers and a net worth of $30m.

The two decided to host what for all intents and purposes was an amateur boxing match. Yet with the platform that allowed them to build such a loyal and engaged following at their disposal this would be no ordinary amateur bout. The fight generated 1.2 million pay-per-view buys globally, at £7.50 or $10 a view the revenue was estimated to be over $10m. The fight was declared a draw and a rematch was to be hosted in LA at the Staples Centre. This time the fight wasn’t on YouTube and was upgraded to pay-per-view platform DAZN at £9.95. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing boss led the promotions, and labelled it a success after KSI’s victory stating, “It’s the biggest pay-per-view in the UK of the year so far. That includes the first Joshua-Ruiz Jr fight from America.”

The final figures are yet to be released, but the journey and success of these two stars is a prime example of the democratisation of media. They started their own channels at relatively little cost, out of their homes and have gone on to hosting one of the biggest sporting events of 2019, as amateurs. This is the power the internet, and particularly social media, has given to every individual where it is no longer one-to-the-many, but the many-to-the-many. Anyone can upload content, for someone else around the world to find, engage with, and share. Who would have thought that traditional TV broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Sky, would be playing catch-up with teenagers creating content from their bedrooms. 

Conclusion

In summary, broadcasters and traditional media are no longer the arbiters of quality, they face increased competition from SVOD platforms such as Netflix. However, increasingly so they face wider and significant competition from the wider population, who can all become creators themselves should they choose to do so. Every view, like and share is a vote, and validation of quality in today’s online world.

The data shows that younger generations are also watching less and less TV and choosing to spend their time online. The BARB trends in television viewing shows a continual decline in linear TV viewing figures in the UK; overall all age groups except 65+ have declined. The trends show TV has a growing relevance issue, with 16-24 year-olds roughly watching a third less broadcast TV than they were in 2010. The steep decline in the younger generations demonstrates the widening gap in the consumption habits of younger and older generations.

The democratisation of media has triggered a content arms race which is now full blooded, with Apple, Disney, and Britbox all joining the race this year, the stakes are higher than ever. One thing’s certain, today great content can come from anywhere and everyone.

20.11.2019
News
Words by
Samuel Regan-Asante