Ceci Mourkogiannis is a co-founder of Papero: an interactive social layer that lives on the surface of existing media content, designed for younger millennials and older members of Generation Z who expect digital media to be interactive and social at its very core.
Think about the last time you commented on an article one of your friends posted on Facebook. If you’re like most of the media-hungry millennials and teenagers we’ve talked to while working on Papero over the last few months, your experience probably went a little something like this:
Step 1. Find yourself on Facebook. Forget why you’re there.
Step 2. Scroll randomly.
Step 3. Spot yet another article about Nicki Minaj posted by Cheryl.
Step 4. Click through + read for approximately 5 seconds.
Step 5. Tab back to Facebook to see what Cheryl said about it.
Step 6. Copy + paste (random) quote from article to Cheryl’s wall and comment “this is provocative”.
Step 7. Check your notifications at work to see how many people liked and/or responded to your (probably uninformed) comment since the last time you checked.
Step 8. Wash, rinse, repeat.
This little routine seems so natural and intuitive nowadays that it takes a bit of critical distance to recognize that it’s a strange thing to do. Even forgetting the fact that you probably never finished the article in the first place (don’t worry, you’re not alone), it’s odd that we do such a good job of splitting up the experience of consuming media from that of engaging with it. It’s not surprising that people return to Facebook when they feel the urge to engage more deeply with an article or video: it’s where their friends are.
Please keep off the grass
Newspapers and media companies have done a pretty good job of making sure young audiences won’t be hanging out at their place any time soon. Hoping to gain the benefits of social traffic, most media companies and publishers have actively pushed the conversation to social media — with many even taking steps to kill off their own comment sections.
But today many media companies are having to confront the fact that pursuing social traffic at all costs may have been a bit of a double-edged sword. By out-sourcing community and interactivity to the big social networks, media companies have become the parties that nobody wants to hang out at any more — at least not for more than 15 seconds.
Let’s face it: it can be pretty dull to hang out on an article unless you’re really in the mood for it. None of your friends are there, there’s not much to do, and if you do feel like doing something spontaneous you might be subject to the wrath of a moderator.
From the perspective of media companies, it’s an unprecedented disaster. While Facebook and Twitter drive huge amounts of traffic to digital media properties, they also reap most of the benefits. With news and entertainment articles making up more and more of the Facebook newsfeed, media companies are creating a huge amount of the value for end users that Facebook is managing to capture with its impeccably targeted ads.
It’s like the New York Times has gone to all the expense and effort of throwing you a lavish party, but you’re spending all your time chatting about it in the limo Facebook booked to take you there. Even if you decide to step into the main room for a sip of the champagne, you’ll probably end up drinking with your friends in the back of the limo all night long.
Although newer, social-media oriented media properties like Buzzfeed have managed to build massive businesses on the back of the newsfeed by mastering the art of mass-producing viral content, all media companies face the brutal reality that the majority of time spent by potential readers in response to their content occurs on Facebook and not their own sites — which leaves them impotent to capture much additional value.
Redefining the media consumption experience for Generation Snapchat
At Papero, our mission is to address the needs of younger millennials and older members of Generation Z (a.k.a. Generation Snapchat) who have an interest in news and the media, but who expect digital media to be interactive and social at its very core. Our current solution is an interactive social layer that lives on the surface of existing media that lets our users experience articles and videos together with the people they care about.
Talking to younger media consumers, we’ve learned that they’re frustrated at the absence of ways to engage and interact with the content they consume. For the generation who has grown up with Snapchat, scrolling through a text-based news article that offers no opportunities for social interaction or engagement is uninspiring and a big turn-off.
Younger audiences expect to be able to interact instantly with the media they consume, and traditional media companies aren’t listening to them. With 25% of American teenagers departing Facebook for Snapchat and other more visual and interactive social networks in 2013 alone, there’s an opportunity here for media companies to be the change they want to see in the world.
Snapchat Discover has already shown what can be done when tech companies work with traditional media properties to develop innovative formats and new modes of engagement. Now is exactly the right time for media companies to make sure that they continue to experiment with ways of bridging the gap between consumption and engagement.
We definitely don’t have all the answers (yet), but we think it’s far easier to begin to imagine potential future lives for the media in a post-Snapchat world if you start from the assumption that social interaction and media consumption should occur simultaneously.
If the struggling media industry is to make it through its longest winter, it will need to make sure that it starts inviting your friends to the party so you feel like sticking around for longer.