Understanding media? Check the 3 phases pattern!

When radio came along some thought the newspaper would disappear because who would read the news on paper if it could be read to you on the radio, right? 

channel pattern

Wrong. Exactly the same happened when TV came along because who would listen to the news on the radio if you could see the news on TV? 
Wrong again. Radio is still going pretty strong. There is a specific purpose and audience for every channel, and not everything and every channel is about getting the news…

Channels

The match between character of the channel and the purpose of it should be made, and is made by all of us, all the time, every day. So for this post we focus on the rise of the channels, without the fall of them or others.

I think there is huge resemblance between what happened on the web and what happened on mobile. Initially we also tried to put a complete site in a mobile app. You remember? Today all kinds of modern channels are entering the battlefield for the attention of the users. Let’s take some time to take a look at the rise of these channels.

It seems like all channels have to go through one pattern, a pattern with three phases of maturity. From early discovery and exploring the possibilities to strategic embedded usage-matching the character of the channel to the specific (business) purposes.

Phase 1 – Copy-paste and see what sticks

In this first phase we tend to try things and see what sticks, or copy others we think might be ahead. This isn’t a bad thing, we need to explore and see what works. It’s better to explore than to ignore I think. Another typical way to explore a new channel is to copy content from an older (hopefully more mature) channel where we think it could match. Think of the rise of the Web. We took all kinds of folders and flyers and published it to the initial website and added to call us in case of more questions. Content from paper published online with the direct pointer to the phone as means of communication. We didn’t understand the site could be a two-way street and forced users out of it, because we wanted to publish some more. At least that’s how most of us started on the web 0.1.

Phase 2 – The true character gets revealed

After the initial exploration of the channel we see the first successful use of it and adapt the channel to us and our customer’s needs. Still, this young channel is very special and we treat it that way by making exceptions on regular processes to shine on it. Think of handling service via Twitter or Facebook. How often is it easier and faster to do this via these social channels rather than through the more traditional channels? And is this really because of the dynamic character of the channel or the way the company treats it? I’ve heard of some stories that all regular processes were put aside just to let the service on twitter get in front of the line. This isn’t always a bad thing of course; think of an overload on regular channels due to a disaster where the more traditional channels just don’t scale up to the demand. That’s when these social channels can shine because that’s just their comfort zone, that’s what they are good at! It’s part of their character.

Phase 3 – Embed within the media suite

After the special glitter of the new channel wears off, the channel is integrated in the suite of opportunities we as a user and organizations have at our and their disposal. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to treat all channels equally, it means we should respect the character of the channel and make effective use of its strengths. There is a match for a specific usage and a channel from users perspective and there is also one from organizations perspective. And there is also a cost effective way of using the broad range of channels as a set. Embedding the new channel within the suite without treating it as an exception is a sign of maturity.

What do you think?

Is this a pattern you also see? And where do you think we are with Web, Mobile and Social? I’d love to hear your side of the story! Send me an e-mail.