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Published on August 15th, 2006 | by Simon Wakeman

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Changing UK media landscape

Last week Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, published its regular research into the UK communications market. The report contains a lot of useful information for marketers, and paints a picture of rapidly evolving consumption of media by UK residents.

The trends are important for marketers to get their heads around. Past assumptions about the best communications channels are shattered as the fragmentation of channels and audience groups has continued apace.

Marketers need to think more creatively and innovatively when finding a way to get their messages to audiences.
The good news is that consumption of many communications services is increasing:

On average in 2005, mobile subscribers made more calls and sent more texts than they did in 2001, internet users spent almost 20 minutes more time online per week and TV viewers watched for 11 minutes longer.

Not surprisingly it was the 16 to 24 year olds who showed the greatest change in media consumption, and Ofcom noted that the difference between this group and older people was more marked in 2005 than previously.

The 16 to 24 year olds gave marketers a glimpse of how people will consume media in the future – they use a much wider range of technologies to receive (and increasingly send) communications. The evidence from Ofcom is clear – the young:

  • watch less public-service broadcasting output than ever before – 58% of vieweing time compared to 74.3% in 2001
  • listening to proportionately less analogue and local commercial radio than average and substitute it with digital listening from the newer national commercial services.
  • are ditching fixed-line telephony in favour of mobile calls and texts – 16-24 year old subscribers make on average seven more calls and send 42 more texts per week than the population as a
  • spend more time online; young adults who use the internet do so for 21 more minutes per week than the UK average and at least 70% of them have used websites for keeping up contacts (against 41% of all adults).

Think about a teenager you know – he or she probably carries the latest model mobile phone with internet access, an iPOD, has broadband internet access and digital TV at home.

So more importantly what does this mean for marketers?

Understanding new media and how to use it is vital – new media and social media channels aren’t just an add-on to campaigns to make them edgy – these channels need to be at the heart of communications planning, and in many cases the first channel that is considered.

Marketers need to get the nuances of the channel, and how to keep the online and socially networked blogosphere with you.

Conversations are integral to social media, so it’s inevitable that whatever your campaign is, it will get discussed. And as a marketing or PR person you need to accept the loss of media control that social media brings compared to advertising (although thinking about it, that loss of control isn’t all that different to the difference between advertising, where you control the message, and editorial coverage where you don’t).

That loss of control is where the real potential of social media marketing lies. Harness the online community and you’ll have many more voices independently endorsing your message in a way you could never deliver by yourself.

Lee Odden has some interesting thoughts about social media for marketers – in particular he has five tips for marketers to consider:

  1. Tightly define your group. Gives example of tax attorney and M&A attorney as specific groups. It’s not enough to define a group like “financial attorneys” as that is too broad.
  2. Be not afraid of your features – When you’re talking to a click, you need to focus on the features.
  3. Look for an increase in influencer ratio – A clique is a gathering of people. They pass new information as currency and then go away and make recommendations. Tactic is to drop your message into the group and they will take it and pass it along.
  4. Support the community – Cliques are hard to get into. Basically need to “buy” your way in.
  5. Clone the tactic – Once you’ve done it right, apply to other similar situations.

A good way to see how up with social media you are as a marketer is to check out Mack Collier’s top social media/networking sites. How many are you a member of? Do you know how they are used? If you don’t then you can’t expect to be able to deliver a marketing or PR programme using them.

Get online, register and start being part of the network. Without an understanding of social media theory and the practical experience of using these sites, how can you expect to deliver a campaign using them?

It’s important marketing and PR people do that, and do it quick. Today’s 16 to 24 year olds are leading the charge towards fragemented media and increasing interaction through social media.

Anyone familiar with the diffusion of innovations curve will know that the young are the early adopters, and the mainstream audience will follow. Plus of course today’s young people are tomorrow’s adults and parents, carrying with them the media habits of their early years.

Of course then their children will probably have new channels to communicate with, and I’ll be reposting this in ten years time talking about a channel I can’t even imagine now.

This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.


About the Author

I write on my blog about all kinds of things. Mostly it's focussed on communications, marketing and digital stuff - as that's what I spend my days doing and evenings thinking about. But sometimes I'll cover running, mountain biking, road biking or geeky gadgets too.



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  • About Simon

    Simon WakemanSimon is Director of Strategy and Marketing at digital agency Deeson and writes for the agency blog on all things digital.

    He’s a CIPR and CIM qualified digital, communications and marketing professional with experience working across the full communications mix in the public and private sectors.

    Outside work he enjoys running, road cycling, mountain biking, caravanning and generally being outdoors. Simon is married with two children, has an energetic miniature labradoodle and lives in Canterbury, Kent.

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