Opinion | London Olympics show the value of the media filter
The Rieger Report
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 20:08
This Twitter hash tag defined NBC’s coverage of the Games of the XXX Olympiad during the first week.
Within the first three days, tweets using this hash tag increased from 212 to over 20,000, according to Mashable.com.
But despite the significant increase in social media users since the Beijing Games four years ago, especially on sites like Facebook and Twitter, the London Olympics was the most-watched television event in history.
NBC aired over 5,000 hours of coverage, the most in Olympic history, much of which was streamed live online, but then tape-delayed and aired in primetime.
This tape-delay created controversy where audiences often knew the results before the event aired, including a promo for the “Today” show showing the winner of a swim meet minutes before the event aired in primetime.
However, even these blatant spoiler alerts did not turn fans away.
NBC pulled in record audiences and increased their advertising revenue across traditional and digital platforms.
This included a 300 percent increase in digital ad sales compared to four years ago, according to AdAge.com.
Even in the age of aggregators and social media, the media is still relevant.
The ratings from the London Olympics clearly define the old, but new role the media is playing: the information filter for audiences.
With over 5,000 hours of coverage, there was no possible way for even the biggest couch potato to watch every event in the two-week span.
And many viewers did not want to spend the time or energy to sort through and find the key events and the big names — they wanted it handed to them on a platter, which is exactly what NBC did.
Digital media has created a problem and a solution for media organizations.
Audiences can customize, aggregate and find breaking news for free almost anywhere on the Internet, but they cannot understand the significance or find high-quality coverage for free.
This is why newspapers, television and other media outlets will continue to exist, albeit in a different form.
Nowhere can you find in-depth analysis of the latest political movement, economic trend or sports event than on traditional media.
Traditional media still filters relevant, high-quality content for audiences, and until people suddenly have hours to dedicate to finding relevant news, news organizations will remain important to audiences.
Major newspapers provide high-quality investigative reports, television stations provide succinct high-level news and NBC owns and streams Olympic coverage.
But the elephant in the room is how will news organizations adjust and target coverage to relevant audiences through tools like social media?
There is no need for the plethora of resources news organizations devote to covering the same breaking news — audiences can find that information anywhere for free, and this coverage simply segments ad revenue for media organizations, making it harder to monetize content.
But targeted, high-quality news and event coverage — i.e. the London Olympics — have built a new path for media organizations.
Tweets about the London Olympics increased by 120,000 percent compared to the Beijing Olympics, according to The New York Times.
NBC’s unique integration of digital and traditional media has shifted the industry, and other media organizations will soon follow this trend.
NBC took a risk few were willing to take.
Prior to the start of the games, there were actually reports that NBC might lose money on the Olympics, even after paying nearly $2 billion for broadcast rights.
Instead, NBC not only made money, but also has opened the door for media organizations.
The Olympics demonstrated not only the significance of the media, but also how media organizations will continue to control and filter information, even in the digital age.
But that is exactly what the customer wants.