The pandemic saw a historically high surge in media consumption and media audience growth. However, data heading into 2022 painted a bleaker picture. After two years of easy wins in the attention economy, media companies now face an attention recession.
Getting it right in the attention recession
Today, we face a difficult environment for media companies to prosper. That said, a few companies are getting it right and provide valuable lessons. The New York Times is one of them. The NYT managed to harness the temporary surge in media consumption and direct it into unprecedented growth for its new subscription services. While it has long been a leader in capturing subscriptions, the NYT was able to take the boom of the last two years and build upon it as part of a long-term revenue strategy.
The key to their success? An ambitious and high-quality multichannel strategy. The NYT didn’t just farm its audience’s surging interest for clicks and ad revenue. Instead, it created a unique brand connection by remaking their product offering into a complete, multichannel media experience. They added new subscription services for games, cooking, sports and more and evolved the brand into a kind of one-stop shop for media engagement.
And while The New York Times’ success stands out, it is also replicable. Media companies simply need to apply the core lesson: Gone are the days when customer attention was cheap and easily won with ad spend. Instead, the products that will drive revenue in the future will deliver a multi-or omnichannel experience that creates unique, differentiated value for the consumer.
Building for that kind of experience for your audience might seem daunting. But it can be done.
Valuing customer’s attention
It starts with constructing a revenue model that values your customer’s attention as much as they value it themselves. Too many media companies are afraid to transition to premium content providers. They worry if they develop content consumers have to pay for, they’ll be left behind for whoever can afford not to set up a paywall.
But that fear is misguided. Time and time again, consumers have shown they are more than willing to pay. However, they have to feel they are paying for something worthwhile. Most value their time, and the quality of how they spend it, more than they value saving a few bucks per month.
So, don’t be afraid of the subscription model. Instead, focus on developing the kind of unique, premium content that makes a subscription worthwhile.
Creating strong customer relationships
That said, embracing the subscription model won’t be enough if consumers don’t feel connected to your brand. There’s just no getting around it: Strong customer relationships matter. Seventy-six percent of consumers say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over any competitor. To succeed, you need to be more than just a content provider; you need to become a brand that customers feel connection and loyalty toward.
Creating that brand connection is one of the key components of today’s omnichannel experience. Almost three-quarters of consumers already use multiple channels when interacting with brands. Each channel presents the consumer with a swarm of touchpoints with your brand; you need to be reaching them across each one, and weaving a coherent brand story and image into each of those touchpoint encounters.
Exceptional customer experience is key
Finally, a key takeaway for any media company is to optimize for customer experience and not just views. In today’s media ecosystem, plenty of consumers are experiencing digital fatigue with how their attention is used and abused. Media consumers aren’t just downshifting their consumption patterns; they’re overloaded and overwhelmed.
Attention-grabbing tactics won’t work any longer, and consumers are getting tired of clickbait. You want to optimize, not for views and clicks, but for a daily habit of interaction. Getting there starts with a media experience that can be enjoyed daily. And that starts with creating an owned media content experience that is high-quality and differentiated.
Consumers today constantly engage with a wide array of digital products and services across multiple channels, devices, and platforms. Compelling customer experiences that leverage multi-channel engagement can build lasting, continuous relationships with consumers. And these relationships will form the backbone of revenue streams that will outlive the attention recession.
About the author
Chris Hansen is the Senior Vice President of Communication, Media, and Technology at 3Pillar Global.