Never before in the history of Philippine elections have we seen any media so extensively used and abused to shape the minds of the voting public as the social media that we know now. And why? Because in the 2010 elections, there were only about 23 million Filipinos using the internet; but today, there are 49 million active monthly users of Facebook in the country! There are more content produced by the presidential candidates’ supporters than anyone can keep up with—from memes to citizen newsfeeds.
Indeed, the media sector has been undergoing some major shifts these past few years, to wit:
In late 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, one of the oldest newspapers in the US. In September last year, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox acquired the National Geographic media. A month later, FHM UK announced it was suspending the publication of the men’s magazine after 30 years of operations. Early this year, Netflix announced that it has made its video-on-demand service available globally; and that it plans to become the first global television network by end of this year.
As regards the 2016 US presidential campaigns, politicians are allocating more than 9 percent, or an estimated $1 billion, of media budget to digital and social media, according to expert estimates.
In the local scene, local telecom companies already announced years ago their foray into media. In 2013, ABS-CBN launched its mobile service allowing users to watch past episodes of their favorite shows through local video-on-demand and livestreaming website iWanTV. In March 2014, PLDT acquired a majority stake in The Philippine Star. In May this year, listed-firm Now Corp. announced the creation of an enterprise IT, broadband and wireless cable television network, apart from its plan to launch soon “Now Planet,” which allows a user to place a content platform like Netflix, YouTube and Instagram into channels.
The main driver of all of these is, of course, the internet, coupled with the proliferation of inexpensive smartphones and tablets. With internet penetrations rising fast across the globe, it has spawned a service known as over-the-top content (OTT), which refers to delivery of audio, video, and other media over the internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator in the control or distribution of the content. Evidently so, this results in a big shift in the way media content is produced, distributed, and consumed.
In fact, Accenture’s latest global research on consumer viewing habits reveals that 62 percent of TV viewers are concurrently using a computer or a laptop and 41 percent are using a mobile phone—fact-checking politicians’ claims or messaging friends about a meme. Consumers of today use multiple content at the same time and in a fleeting way.
Moreover, consumers, mainly driven by social media millennial users, have an average of 3.2 friends who post videos at least once per day and almost four out of 10 consumers post video online via the social media, according to Accenture’s study. This means that digital content is not bound by the constraints of traditional media, that is, an individual content producer can take their product direct to the consumer, via Facebook, YouTube, or similar platforms. It has also given immense power to consumers, so that the well-known brands and large corporations no longer have the so-called upper hand.
These have far-reaching implications for brands and advertisers alike. For one, the proverbial understanding consumer has never been as hugely important as he is now. New analytics tools are available now for brands and companies to better understand consumer behavior.
Another implication is that brands and companies now need to let consumers exercise their newfound power. Successful brands create polls and allow user-generated hashtag campaigns. Others ask consumers to share ideas or share content solely created by them, which further motivates the consumer to but the product or support a candidate because they know their wishes are being valued.
But in the end, for all of these shifts in media to fully redound to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike, we need a fast, affordable, and reliable internet infrastructure. We just hope that this monumental election year becomes the impetus for a deep and sustainable change that we all long for.
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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The author may be emailed at email@example.com or visit his website at www.reylugtu.com.
The author is a senior executive in the information and communications technology sector. He is the Chairman of the ICT Committee of FINEX. He also teaches strategy, management and marketing courses in the MBA Program of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University.