Group SJR's "Unfiltered" report took an in-depth look at a variety of digital media platforms and how consumers respond. The SJR Insights team asked 903 individuals of all ages about their current digital behaviors and gleaned results from their responses. Probably the most relevant results in the report are regarding how Millennials respond to news media through social media channels:
- 43% believe credibility is the most important thing in a news source overall.
- 47% say credibility is what they care about most when it comes to breaking news.
- 11% believe objectivity is the key to credibility.
Brendan Cournoyer, content marketing manager for Brainshark, says that these survey results have a lot to do with two things: how people obtain information now and the speed with which they do it. "In the pre-internet age, people were dependent only on a handful of channels to learn about breaking news," he says. "Today, there are seemingly endless ways for news to break online, to the point that most people have already heard about a story before the traditional channels can report it. It's less about the credibility of the source-news is broken via tweet all the time-and more about how fast you hear it."
According to Robert Rose, chief strategist for Content Marketing Institute, "Millennials have a ramification mentality." He says, "As a study with MTV found, 70% of them believe they can ‘successfully negotiate anything with authority figures.' They grew up gaming the system; therefore, the content they see may or may not resonate with their values, but its credibility is absolutely negotiable."
Rose also points out that today's differentiating angle is point of view, not acquisition of fact. Alex Jutkowitz, managing partner and founder of Group SJR, notes that a continuing rise in cynicism makes us a more polarized society where knowledge is the ultimate goal.
Hugo Ottolenghi, adjunct professor of journalism and mass communication at Florida International University, doesn't even believe that objectivity exists: "It never existed in newspaper and TV news and it doesn't exist now on the internet. I think Millennials don't expect objectivity; they recognize that every news source has a bias-political, economical, religious, etc.-and they factor that into how much they accept or reject of that source's news."
Where does this leave content providers? Well, Rose points out that they must take a point of view in their content to be seen as valuable. "Content providers must come to their own decision about how strong this point of view will be-and how objective they need to be-in order to balance that for grabbing attention versus developing credibility."
"When people are looking to answer questions, they still want quality, credible answers," says Cournoyer. "If you provide that to them, it will pay off over time. Quality content builds trust, gets shared more and improves the reliability of your brand and website-all of which will positively impact your credibility."
The "Unfiltered" report also briefly touches on "instant savantism," which is the desire of internet users to become experts on a given topic instantly. In this case, content providers must establish themselves as experts in order to cater to this desire. After all, to become an expert, one must learn from an expert.
Rose says that it's all about establishing one's authority on the subject at hand. "There's a reason I'd rather learn economics from Thomas Friedman than someone else. I resonate with his opinion and his authority. He has the same facts as anyone [else], but he presents them uniquely and in a way that creates loyalty in me. This is what content providers must do as well: build themselves as experts with their unique point of view."
The question remains: Should content providers cater to this desire for instant savantism in the first place? After all, there is some gain to be had in holding information back.
"There's always a balance with what information and knowledge should be shared and what should be held a little more closely," says Jutkowitz. "Ideas such as radical transparency, conceptually, are great ideas that don't necessarily serve the greater good of an organization or of the audience you're trying to reach. One end of the spectrum is that you share everything radically. The other end is that you share nothing. We slide up and down that continuum between the two."
According to the "Unfiltered" report, the era of passive observation is officially behind us. Consumers now want a hyperimmersive experience. Rose admits that it's hard to accomplish. "Right now, most businesses are struggling with getting myriad channels filled with engaging content-much less aligning them with a larger, more immersive experience," Rose says.
Ottolenghi suggests examining the music industry for inspiration when seeking to provide a hyperimmersive experience in content. "Popular bands and singers generate [profit] from producing and selling songs, but they make much more money playing concerts. Those are immersive experiences in which the audience connects with the musicians and other fans. The more meaningful experience, as defined by the content creator and its audience, is a path to success. Content creators need to move from being the originators of information to becoming one of the participants."
Jutkowitz sees the role of content in the hyperimmersive experience a little differently. "Any kind of immersion needs connective tissue-content is the connective tissue. Good content matters because the only way that you can bring communities of action together is through glue. Poor content alienates us-it pulls us apart."
The way we access information is always changing. Content providers must constantly adapt to those changes to reach their audiences effectively, and that brings about innovations we couldn't dream of even 10 years ago. That leads one to wonder what credibility, savantism, and hyperimmersion will look like in the content world 10 years from now.