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The age of inexclusivity – why ‘scoops’ are no longer the media’s primary concern

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Media outlets have traditionally judged their standing within the industry on the quality of their scoops. We would look enviously at other publishers asking how they got the story and it became common place for editors to berate reporters for not being the one to get the scoop.

Of course, there have always been questions about whether the public really chose their media based on the scoops they got. The BBC for example isn’t known as an exclusive powerhouse, but remains the first port of call for millions of Brits looking for the latest on a news story. In reality, scoops were about ego and reputation.

When editors rejected a story because it had been run by another outlet, they weren’t doing this because they thought their audience wouldn’t care or engage with the content. They were doing it because they were bitter they had missed out. In the event that they did pursue the same story the reporter would be told to find a new angle and not publish until such time.

The move to digital first publishing has made this mindset untenable. While reporters still judge themselves on the scoops they get, there’s increasing pressure from commercial teams and senior management to generate the maximum traffic possible for a site. That traffic is often driven by publishing “viral, user generated” content, even if that content has featured on a rival publisher’s site.

Video is the priority, not because publishers are fed up of words, but because the CPMs they can charge on video far outweigh the amount they can bill for a text based article. The growth of video advertising in the market is increasing and is expected to grow faster than any other segment over the next five years. With that “viral” videos are becoming the must have commodity for internet publishers. In addition to sites which specialise in surfacing and spreading this content, “traditional publishers” are sharing viral videos because they know it will drive the traffic they need to sustain their business model.

Commercially, 500,000 views of a video on a publisher’s, which may have been viewed 5 million times in total because of its non-exclusive nature, is better than 50,000 views of an exclusive article.

What this means is that today’s media industry is entering the age of inexclusivity– sure bets are now prioritised over the scoop and publishers are watching social media and their competitors for content which will appeal to their audience.

Social media is far more than just a platform for publishers to share content. It acts as a discovery tool and early warning system, and with the right monitoring platforms you can see which videos are going viral and jump on them early – sharing them with audiences before they become old news. This focus on virality is important because it presents publishers with a way to attract mass audiences with content they engage with, creating huge amounts of advertising inventory and in turn, monetising the millions of eyeballs that viral content often commands.

This becomes increasingly important when journalists are expected to produce more content than ever before. Why take the risk on a topic you’re unsure an audience will care about when you can add 150 words to a viral video and let your audience do the rest.

The media has always served the interests of their audience and publishing a viral video you know will hit their sweet spot is a legitimate way of doing that. But it does mean a different mindset is needed when considering whether a story is worthy of a journalist’s time. Gone are the age-old questions; ‘is this exclusive? Do we have a fresh angle?’ to be replaced by ‘will our audience find this interesting?’ Whether the content has performed well on other platforms is now a key consideration.

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