For the past week, I was at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s a center for journalistic studies with a rich history, and a proud tradition.
The week-long seminar I attended was titled: “Digital Strategies for Today’s Newsroom Managers”. I’m not a newsroom manager, but MY newsroom manager keeps telling me I’m a leader in the newsroom…and they appreciate my interest in social media, so off to St. Petersburg I went. Boy did I learn a lot!
I learned that traditional media everywhere are struggling to discover what their role is in the new world of digital. 3-and-4 screen technology, cloud-computing, smartphone apps, dwindling print readership, blogging, paywalls, hyper-local coverage, and measuring audience were just some of the topics discussed.
I learned that newspaper readership is dropping, and TV viewers are defecting…that people want their news when they want it, and that they aren’t willing to wait till the morning edition of the newspaper comes out. They aren’t even willing to wait until the 5, 6, or 11 o’clock news comes on. I learned that CraigsList has killed newspapers’ most lucrative and dependable revenue stream, and that even loyal and middle-aged news viewers’ eyeballs are moving to FaceBook for their news. I learned that the most likely platform for people to get their news in the near future is the smartphone.
That’s great, Dave…but what does this have to do with VO? Well, last I heard some of the most lucrative jobs in voice-over came from TV and radio…both of which are besieged by the trends of our digital future. When those jobs go away, so do lots of VO opportunities.
VO is, by design, woven into the fabric of popular media, and our fortunes are tied to TV and radio, and yes, even print. That’s kinda crappy, ’cause we have little control over how those media establishments are reacting to the changes. Some of our clients will survive, even thrive in the new world. Others will go away.
If I may, let me just float 5 salient viewpoints that have relevance to what it is we voice actors do, and should keep doing if we expect to continue to be a part of the media world.
1) Engagement This is a hugely important concept in the digital media world of the future. In case you don’t know…Social Media is setting the pace on much of this, and social networking is NOTHING if it’s not about engagement. Engaging the audience =attracting and holding fast to your viewers/listeners. Continuing the conversation, responding, replying, and maintaining interest in the subject at hand.
FOR VO’s: What are you doing to engage your clients, your listeners, your agents, your coaches, your peers? Did you answer that email, that comment, that question?
2) The Story continues… No longer does ANYTHING disappear from public view anymore. It’s all in the digital record. The story lingers much longer than before, inviting comment and feedback. There’s a never-ending shelf-life to digital data.
FOR VO’s: Your first demo? It’s out there. That spot you did 3 years ago? Is it still running?…and did they pay you for it?
3) Content Counts This never changes. In fact, if anything, the digital future demands even better content. Do you write? Are you a producer or director or coach? Are you contributing mediocrity, or does your product have consistent quality?
FOR VO’s: Your input on scripts, your interpretation, your commitment to the client’s product makes a difference. Make it better.
4) Excellence Building on point #3, the consumers of digital media don’t want a future where YouTube’s shaky videos and questionable value rule the world. There IS a market for excellence. The best of ANY market offering can command the best price. A digital future is a quality future.
FOR VO’S: Don’t think for a minute that you can “slide” on that read. Hold your standards high, and impress your clients. You’ll get more work in the long run.
5) Measurement Matters Digital products — by their very nature — lend themselves well to metrics. “1′s” and “0′s” are easy to count, and there are more ways to count them than ever before. Digital is not a platform that brooks sloppiness. Media outlets of tomorrow CANNOT afford to ignore the numbers.
FOR VO’s: Do your bookkeeping. Number your invoices. Get a Google Analytics account. Check your traffic. Count your visitors and backlinks.