Is Conversational Media Dead? Things I'm Thinking About.

Ulrich Fischer

Ulrich Fischer

Sep 07, 20234 min read

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Is Conversational Media Dead? Things I'm Thinking About.

In today's rapidly evolving media landscape, the question of whether conversational media is dead has become a topic of intense debate. To answer this question, it is important to first define what we mean by conversational media. According to a post that defined the term, conversational media is characterized by five core elements.

The first characteristic is Conversation over Dictation. Unlike traditional packaged goods media (PGM) where an authoritative figure dictates information to the audience, conversational media allows for a more interactive and engaging experience. Journalists act as hosts, taking the audience on a journey of discovery. This shift in power dynamics empowers the audience to actively participate in the conversation.

The second characteristic is Platform over Distribution. Conversational media thrives on network effects and the platforms that harness them. In contrast, PGM relies on tightly controlled distribution channels. While the open web initially served as the platform for conversational media, the rise of tech giants like Apple and Facebook introduced new distribution chokeholds reminiscent of old media models.

The third characteristic is Service over Product. Packaged goods media treats its output as discrete products like articles or shows. In conversational media, the focus is on providing a service. Whether it's search, social media, or streaming platforms, conversational media businesses prioritize delivering ongoing value to their audience.

The fourth characteristic is Iteration and Speed Over Perfection and Deliberation. Packaged goods media emphasizes the creation of highly produced, polished products. In contrast, conversational media embraces a more iterative approach. It values speed and constant iteration, always seeking to improve and adapt based on audience feedback.

The fifth and final characteristic is Engagement over Consumption. Conversational media encourages active engagement from its audience. Instead of passively consuming content, audiences are encouraged to "lean forward" and participate in the conversation. This is evident in the high level of audience interaction seen on platforms like blogs or livestreams.

While these characteristics define conversational media, it is important to consider the broader implications of AI and technology in the media landscape. One misconception is that AI diminishes the need for human skill and expertise. However, the more we delve into AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, the more we realize the value of expertise. AI excels at specific prompts, but when it comes to challenging brand positioning strategies, for example, it is the expertise and taste of human experts like Marty Cagan or April Dunford that provide valuable insights.

Incorporating AI into conversational media actually places greater importance on human expertise and good ideas. It enhances the need for human input and creativity to guide AI systems towards generating meaningful and valuable content. AI becomes a tool to augment human capabilities rather than replace them.

So, is conversational media dead? The answer is no. It has evolved and adapted to the changing media landscape. Conversational media offers a more interactive, engaging, and iterative approach to content creation and consumption. It empowers audiences to actively participate in the conversation, and it relies on the expertise and creativity of human professionals to guide AI systems.

To thrive in the world of conversational media, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace the role of the host: As a journalist or content creator, adopt the mindset of a conversation facilitator rather than an authoritative figure. Engage your audience in a journey of discovery and encourage their active participation.
  • 2. Leverage platforms and network effects: Understand the power of platforms in driving conversational media. Harness the network effects they offer to reach and engage a wider audience. Stay abreast of emerging platforms and adapt your strategies accordingly.
  • 3. Embrace iteration and audience feedback: Release content early and often, and be open to feedback from your audience. Iterate based on their input, constantly striving to improve and provide value. Embrace the beta mindset and continuously evolve your offerings.

In conclusion, conversational media is very much alive and thriving. Its characteristics, such as conversation over dictation, platform over distribution, service over product, iteration and speed over perfection, and engagement over consumption, make it a dynamic and engaging form of media. By embracing these characteristics and leveraging the power of AI and technology, conversational media can continue to evolve and provide valuable experiences for audiences worldwide.

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