How to plan for ongoing market changes
It is risky to assume that the business model your content is relying on right now will stay the same, even in the short term. The pandemic continues to increase the levels of uncertainty and change for the entire entertainment ecosystem. For a well-rounded perspective on how content creators can successfully plan for ongoing market changes, we spoke with Trina McQueen. An officer of the Order of Canada, McQueen is the Co-Director of the Arts, Media & Entertainment Management Program at Schulich School of Business, and formerly President and COO of CTV Inc, founding President of the Discovery Channel, and head of News Current Affairs and Newsworld for CBC.
Anticipate social and environmental changes
The values and concerns that communities care about evolve after pivotal moments and between generations. These changes have an impact on what audiences are seeking in terms of stories that they engage with, as well as how the stories are developed and experienced. Anticipating how global and local values and concerns will change can help content creators to build stories with narratives that audiences will seek, as well as in formats that they will most want to consume.
Right now, there are three major areas of importance that McQueen suggests are considered when determining the content to be developed, and how to develop it. “These three have put us into a way of thinking about ourselves and our stories that really has not existed before” They are the ongoing pandemic, diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate change.
The pandemic has amplified consumer understanding that we live in a highly unpredictable world, and must constantly be ready to adapt. Content creators and distributors alike have tapped into the increased human desire for familiarity, offering audiences nostalgic titles and spinoffs. Social media platforms that empowered audience connections through shared stories saw a lift driven by the deceased ability to connect in person. While pandemics cannot be predicted, as we continue to live in one, anticipating the content that audiences will want to consume and connect over, both in-home and out-of-home, is important. And, as with all change, keep in mind that audience segments may react very differently.
The increased attention to ensuring content and the teams behind them are diverse is accelerating the development of new stories and new voices. Clear audience demand, as well as evolving funder and studio policies are helping this further. There seems to be a lot more room in the entertainment industry to better showcase, support and engage with all audiences.
Climate change is not only fodder for major storytelling, explains McQueen. It is a global concern that content creators must plan for. This includes making choices to make productions more sustainable, and unfortunately having to plan ahead for safe alternatives for productions that may be taking place at locations impacted by the increase of natural disasters.
Continuing to anticipate major social and environmental changes and assessing how they may impact audience and production needs, is essential.
Understand and plan for economic trends
As an award winning and highly acclaimed journalist, McQueen understands the value of asking the right questions. Two key questions about the economy can help storytellers to define business models for their content that will help them to be profitable: Will the economy go up or go down? And, how will different audience segments react to this?
The economy is not easily predictable, so it is important for leaders to look at economic trends and plan for both positive and negative changes and their impacts on society and the entertainment ecosystem. For example, if the economy trends down, generally audiences will be looking to reduce their entertainment budgets. Understanding how they will do that, such as reducing content platform subscriptions or putting off gaming hardware purchases, helps with decision making ranging from what formats to create content in, through to who to sell it to and for how much. A dipping economy may even become an environment for streaming platforms to merge, or have lower budgets. It can also impact the supply chain of talent if industry-specific training and education becomes more cost prohibitive for some.
McQueen cautions that different demographics will react to the economic changes differently. This includes the type of stories that segments will gravitate towards as economic changes can lead to shifts in what audiences value most. This also includes how the stories or story experiences are accessed - from at-home social ad-based and subscription-based audio, video and interactive platforms, to out-of-home venues. Therefore determining not only exactly who your story is for, but how they may react to change, is key.
Be cognisant of implications to the story creation ecosystem
Understanding social and economic shifts and their implications on audience behaviours and story creation is valuable. But these are not the only factors to consider when defining the content to be developed. These changes also impact connected businesses within the story creation ecosystem. Therefore it is essential to understand how all players can be impacted in order to plan for how to monetize content - content platforms who profit from revenue share, subscriptions or advertising revenue, distribution services, private funders and more. This understanding can help with decisions around everything from content formats to details to include in funding or sales pitches.
Don’t be confined by a business model
As economies, social and environmental values and concerns change, so do the optimal solutions for generating revenue with content. But in the content industry, change is not the only constant. McQueen states that “telling stories is the essence of media.” The story idea should always come first, no matter the genre or format. Then develop it further focusing on what will move people, and then consider the right medium to bring it to life. Defining the right business model should follow defining the story. And, this should be done while considering anticipated social, environmental, economic changes and their implications on the market.